Sunday 30 December 2012

Miss Grace's Lane - Christmas Caving Trip

The weather being what is has been of late we needed a venue that was going to be dry, not to long a drive and would be suitable for a wide section of the Club members. We decided on Miss Grace's Lane in the Forest of Dean. Some of the team met for breakfast in the Pencraig Diner, Jess bringing in her own coffee much to the disgust of the Cafe owner. We headed off to the cave via Chepstow to pick up the key from Jan Karvik and assembled in heavy rain on the carpark by the main road. Andy keen as ever was changed when we arrived and he headed off with his group to rig the entrance while the second group changed ready for the trip. In the shakehole with the entrance we found a small stream flowing which made the descent quite wet and by the bottom of the shaft we got a thorough soaking with all the water that was entering the sides of the shaft.

Dekitting in the chamber we headed off into the maze of passages and chambers, where the next hours were spent exploring, taking photos and getting lost in no particular order.

Mark and Keith - Near Dome Chamber

Mark, Jess and Keith - Dome Chamber

Jessica in a collapsed roof passage near Nurden Hall

Jessica in the Phreatic Causeway

Ian in the Phreatic Causeway

After existing the cave we headed back via Chepstow to drop off the cave key and stopped off at the Piercefield in St Arvans to have a post caving trip meal.

A few more photos from the trip can be seen here

Present: Keith Edwards, Heather Simpson, Phil Lester, Mel Wakeman, Andy Grimes, Mark Burkey, Jessica Harding, Ian Milward and Brendan Marris

Sunday 9 December 2012

Wapping Jugs But No Peaking

As we drove to Castleton the rain lashed down into already swollen streams and rivers and I thought it would be a good idea to pop in and check the trip was on before paying for parking. Andy, Mel and Chloe were already there and a couple of the locals had already gone off to Peak Cavern to check levels. We managed to park in the village and returned back to the hut to await the verdict and for the rest of the party to arrive. As Andy and I chatted we’d pretty much already decided that if there was any doubt then it would be wiser to leave Moss chamber to another day. A consensus was reached by TSG that if we pushed on with the trip that we may well find our return flooded and the only option to be dived out. Whilst a couple of us found this to be exciting rather than off putting, it was decided that a plan B was called for. The walk back to the cars was wet and windy and very cold and Mel (being the more intelligent out of the group) decided that shopping would be the better option for the rest of the day. Andy had gone through his Peak district guide book looking for options that didn’t require tackle as we only had one SRT kit between us and came up with a couple of options for the group.
Jug Holes:
Andy very kindly donned his wellies and braved the cold to point out the exit (main entrance), the shaft and Adit / drum entrance rather than us spend the entire day searching the hills. Carl and Grant rigged and jumped down the 40ft shaft, whilst myself, Jess, Phil, Chloe and Ian went in the oil drum entrance. Splitting up we explored every hole, climb and crawl we could find in the lower series before climbing through the maze of boulders to do the same at the higher level. Grant and Carl spotted a couple of p bolts which we followed through to a rift and finally out. Heading down slope to the collapsed part of the old mine we again explored everything we could find before braving the bracing winds and back to the cars. It was still only around 1pm so it was decided we’d carry on to Matlock Bath to take a look around Wapping and Cumberland.
Wapping Mine / Cumberland Cavern
Parking up at Masson Mills Shopping Complex we took the short walk up the road to the Wapping Adit entrance where the group again went wild exploring any and every passage we came across. After an hour in the Maze we headed up to Cumberland and again explored everything on offer. Back at the cars we changed quickly and said our goodbye’s to those who needed to run off then Ian, Jess and I went in to the shopping centre for a cuppa before heading off ourselves.

Ian making his way through the oildrums

Carl entering via the shaft

The team in Jug Holes
Present:  Jessica Harding, Grant Wilkes, Carl Knott, Ian Millward, Philip Lester, Chloe Burney & Mark Burkey
Also Featuring:
Andy( tour guide) Grimes & Mel (I’d rather shop) Wakeman

Thursday 22 November 2012

Images from the Past

These old photos were sent to me by ex DCC member Ray Watson. Can anyone help identify the 'characters' and locations?
The one is entitled 'Canal'. Obviously in the Dudley Mines, but which one and where?
'Exhibition'. Who, where and when? Can anyone supply the details?
John Smith taking photographs on a trip down Wrens Nest circa 1977
OFD 2 Top Entrance. Who and when was this taken?
Somewhere in OFD.
Rescue Shropshire. Where? Also lots of people to identify.
Roger exiting a Shropshire lead mine circa 1977. Any further details?
Shropshire. Any ideas?
Yorkshire. Any ideas?
Unknown. Who? Where?

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Return to Water Icicle

Unusually I had a couple of mid-week days off, so on Thursday Andy and I made plans for a week day trip. Our last visit to Water Icicle had been thwarted by bad air, so we decided to have another attempt to see the extensions.
As there was no rush I picked Andy up at 10am and off we set. The weather was horrendous on the trip over to pick up Mr Grimes and didn't ease up for the entire journey. Chatting away and with a heavy spray on the roads I sailed past my M42 exit and wound up taking a scenic route up the A444 adding almost an hour to the journey!
Eventually reaching the farm track we slipped and slid up muddy puddles, at one point with Andy donning wellies and pushing the car through a particularly deep puddle, until we decided we could get no further and abandoned the car to walk up the remaining track.
The rain had finally eased and we rigged in relative calm before descending the 100ft to check the air quality at the bottom.
Although our lighters lit we found that there were pockets of bad air in the passages that made harder work of exploring than normal. We decided to keep a check on air quality, but to continue to explore. We headed down North passage first through some very sticky wet mud until I crawled through a particularly wet contortion to find a dig face and the end of the passage. Spinning around in the small space I went back through with half my head submerged to a grinning Andy. Although I offered to wait for him, he for some reason wasn't too bothered about squeezing through the foot deep water to see a dig face....his loss. Our next passage was the North West where we quickly reached the gated extensions. After a quick look up the ladder we headed off to the Southern passage. We were soon at the breakthrough point in the great rift and at the taped extensions. These continued for 80m or so to end at a choke. Again we poked our heads in to a number of holes for a look, finding Donkey Kong Aven and then I spotted a pulley system and some rope. Popping down the hole I was soon in some flat out crawling which went and went and went until finally closing down too tight to follow (I later found out this is Olympic Stroll which goes for 65m). Realising Andy wasn't following I scampered back to him and we pulled on some very muddy kit for the prussic back up.

Finally changed and warm in the car we decided whilst we were in that neck of the woods that we'd continue on to find the location of another on Andy's bucket list 'Rowter Hole'.
We poked around a couple of big sink holes on the way over to the farm and there asked directions, which turned out to be through the farm to a tree line and then just the other side. Again getting very muddy on the way we quickly found the gated shaft and happily trotted back to the warmth of the car.
A muddy Andy and car after a successful trip
Present: Mark Burkey & Andy Grimes

Sunday 18 November 2012

Climbs, traverses, route finding and getting stuck.....again!

On the Saturday Jess and I spent a staggering 7 hours in OFD II diving in every hole, crawl, rift and passage we came across whilst never venturing more than 500 meters from the entrance! We had great fun connecting passage we were familiar with to cave we weren’t. Only once did we come a little unstuck. Jess was in a crawl pushing a tackle bag ahead of her when I heard it go thumping down a hole. Reaching her I looked down several feet to see her bag at the bottom of a small hole. Not thinking I jumped in, jiggling this way and that till I popped through and handed her bag back before realising that getting back up was going to be a tad more interesting as the hole had been quite tight and there were no foot holds to assist me. 2 minutes to pop down the hole……20 to get back out again…..that’ll teach me to look before I leap! J

Chloe braving a traverse

On the Sunday we were joined by Chloe and Ian for another jaunt around top. The route took us up the climb to the mini columns, where a belay was rigged for Chloe and Ian, through some nice wet muddy crawls and down the calcite slope at speedy caver. After this we took Edward’s shortcut to frozen river, then on to shatter pillar and Selenite tunnel before giving Ian a peek at the Trident and the Judge.  Continuing we took in swamp creek and the pitch head to the Nave before exiting via Salubrious.

Jess at Frozen River

Ian viewing a fomation in Swamp Creek

Present: Mark Burkey, Jessica Harding, Chloe Burnley & Ian Millward

Sunday 4 November 2012

OFD 3 - Well 2 & three quarters nearly

A gentle Sunday trip was called for after the Bonfire Night celebrations, and so we headed into OFD 2 with the aim of navigating Mark to the Crevasse so he can lead his own sodding trip to OFD 3 sometime in the future.

We took a standard route into the cave and first headed to look at the climb down into Chasm Passage, which we would encounter later in the trip. Heading down the Corkscrew Climb we dropped into Salubriuos Passage. Jessica wanted to go left here and when challenged decided right was the way on and then when all incorrect options had been exhausted took the correct passage straight ahead to the bottom of Arete. Just past Arete we took a passage to the right with an entertaining climb near it's end to take us into Chasm Passage. Heading North we made our way to the Poached Egg Climb which was rigged with handline and descended. We soon reached Bhowani Junction and took a small detour to see Straw Gallery. Following this we headed to Creek Alley and the start of the Nyth Bran Series to look at the impressive formations high up in the passage. Now all that was left was a short journey to the Crevasse. Another party was met coming back from OFD 3 and Mark dropped down the Crevasse, went across the traverse and had a look at the ladder pitch. The rest of us stayed at the top and some photos were taken while we waited for Mark. The return journey was via Timo's Table and the crawls that lead off from behind it. Once back at Arete, we climbed up to the middle level and dropped back down the slippy climb that sits above the Corkscrew. Exit to the cave was then made through the Sandy Crawls.

Chloe in Straw Gallery

Formations above the start of Creek Alley

Chloe near Bhowani Junction

Chloe and Ian on the Poached Egg Climb

Present: Mark Burkey, Jessica Harding, Chloe Burney, Ian Millward and Brendan Marris

Monday 29 October 2012

Oxlow and Maskhill - NO - Wharf and Hillocks

Well there we all where sat in morrisons waiting for the new lads to arrive so that we could do an exchange trip between Oxlow and Maskhill, when we got a phone call "we shall be a little late" so we sat there drinking yet more cups of tea, and we waited and we waited , suddenly thay arrived "you cant have breakfast get your ar*e into gear we are off" so we headed off at warp factor 2 hoping we could still get into Maskhill without another party being there, but it wasnt to be. So a quick conflab was needed and we agreed to go to Wharf and Hillocks to do an exchange trip there . Now this turned out even better as far as i was concerned as we could split the new lads up and give them an entrance each to rig, Ben was sent into the oildrum entrance, Grant down the engine shaft and Carl was sent down the climbing shft with me casting a beady eye over his rigging, now i didnt expect them to get it perfect as thay new thay were being tested, but thay did ok and we all got down to the bottem safely and did the exchange to come out, Ben derriged the climbing shaft, Grant derriged the oil drum entrance and Carl drew the short straw and had to derrig the engine shaft, all 200 feet of it. Well done lads all you need now is a new alarm clock to arrive on time.

 Report Andy Grimes

Present:  Andy Grimes,Ben,Carl, Grant, Mell Wakemen,Mark Burky, Jess Harding, Brendon Marris, Keith Edwards Graham Smith

Sunday 30 September 2012

Should have gone to Specsavers – Agen Allwedd and Eglwys Faen

Ian in the entrance series
This was my first trip into Aggy for several years and the first time I had seen the Main Passage by Scurion light and what an impressive passage it is. The trip was arranged for the newer members of the club and the planned destination was the Music Hall and Cliffs of Dover.
Five of us met up at Luigi’s in Abergavenny for the customary brekkie and then Brendan and Keith collected Chloe from the car park in Crickhowell. On finding Whitewalls open we asked if we could change inside. Jess left her clothes in the changing rooms and retrieved them after we thought we had explained to the whole party that Whitewalls wouldn’t necessarily be open when we got back.
On the way to Aggy Mark was sent to do the short through trip in Eglwys Faen. On arriving at Aggy I tried the key in the lock and found that my bad luck was still holding – it fitted.
The Cliffs of Dover
The trip to our destination in the cave was fairly uneventful except that Chloe found that she needs more practice on traverses and Keith and Brendan walked past the entrance to Southern Stream Passage thinking it was the next passage on the right.
On the way out we stopped at regular intervals to take photos and video and remarkably no one complained. The cave does seem like a completely different place and much nicer with 4100 lumens of light. On the way out we did manage to find Southern Stream Passage and did the first few metres.
On the way back to the cars we stopped at Eglwys Faen and this time five of us (Brendan excluded) did the through trip from the Main Entrance to the Waterfall Entrance. As Brendan had decided not to join us he was loaded up with boxes and bags and dispatched to the exit. This cave too seems like a completely different and much nicer cave when well illuminated. On exiting, the waterfall was flowing freely and the small passage leading to daylight was half full of water so a thorough soaking was guaranteed.
Back at Whitewalls Mark found that he had left (or it had been left) his spare Scurion battery outside Eglwys Faen and had to walk all of the way back to retrieve it. Still, although this is a long walk, it required slightly less effort than when he had to go back down Knotlow Engine Shaft and back up when a re-belay had not been untied. The rest of us found Whitewalls was indeed locked up. Under my car was a black plastic bin liner full of clothes. Chloe hadn’t heard what we had said about the hut being locked up and had left her clothes inside but some kind person had saved her embarrassment.
The Music Hall
The Main Passage
Later in the car Brendan realised that when he had put his contact lenses in inside the changing rooms he had not picked up his specs. Fortunately he had been to Specsavers but on returning home was going to have to turn the house upside down to find where he had put the ‘spare pair’. Then on Monday I received an email from Ian saying, “Would you have contact details’ for anyone at the club hut yesterday, as I managed to leave my glasses in the back room when we were changing in the morning.” He went on to say, “My intention is to send the contact person a S.A.E. with a spare spectacle case that they can pop them in and post back to me (that will save a car or even a train journey, now who had to do that once before??” The new members learn very early on how to take the p*** out of the chairman!
The Main Passge

The Team: Keith Edwards, Brendan Marris, Chloe Burney, Jess Harding, Mark Burkey and Ian Millward

Sunday 23 September 2012

Hidden Earth Video Competition

Here is what was my entry for the Hidden Earth 2012 video competition.

There were 4 entries on the competition. I didn't win and I didn't get a distinction or a merit, but I did enjoy making it.
I must say a big thank-you to Mark, Steve and Brendan for their encouragement, support and acting ability.

Saturday 15 September 2012

Eldon Hole

After meeting at Morrison’s in Buxton, us arriving later than planned due to us trying a different route than usual, and Ben’s breakfast arriving even later, we finally arrived at Eldon hole around noon. I rigged the West Wall whilst Andy rigged the South Gully.
Andy rigging the South Gully

After a little swearing from Andy’s end of the rift we were soon at the bottom and scrambling through the short grubby crawl in to the main chamber. Andy pointed out the pull through for Millers Chamber and warned that it could take some time to get the rope through, but Jess and I employed a pull-me push-me approach and managed to get it rigged in around 10 minutes. As Andy and Mel had been up there before, and as there would be a queue to ascend, they decided to start the prussic back up whilst the rest of us went to take a look.  It was nice to see the lads finally out of breath after the short ascent to Millers chamber, but I think they’ll agree it was well worth it with sparkling calcite slopes, 6ft stalactites and plenty of flowstone. After a quarter of an hour poking around and playing we made our way back down to the main chamber. For practice it had been decided that Ben and Carl would de-rig. Jess shot up the west wall followed by Ben and I went up the South Gully with Carl following. I think it’s fair to say that both lads found the de-rig tiring, but as youth trumps intelligence they were already looking forward to their next chance to play on the ropes whilst walking back to the car! The lads were in a hurry to get back (probably to start cleaning all the rope we’d given them ;), but Andy, Mel, Jess and myself finished the day with tea and cake at the cafĂ© by Hitch ’n’ Hike.

Andy descending

Present: Andy Grimes, Mel Wakeman, Jessica Harding, Ben Marklew, Carl Knot & Mark Burkey

Saturday 8 September 2012

Ogof Craig A Ffynnon - Lower Series

An early explorer of Ogof Craig A Ffynnon - Chris Leach had seen Keith's video of the cave and having been impressed with the quality made contact with Keith. It was agreed to meet with him and make a visit to the rarely visited Lower Series near the Fourth Boulder Choke, deep into the cave. We met with Chris at the limekilns and with two bags of tackle, a camera box and a video box we set off to the cave. We found at the climb up to the Second Boulder Choke that a set of steel plates had been installed on the climb up to accompany the new BCA handline. We soon reached the Hall of the Mountain King and much to Mark's relief found that he could still fit through the flat out section of Hurricane Highway. The flat out section was a long slog with all the tackle, and 30 minutes later we were stomping down the Severn Tunnel. At the end of this passage the cave reaches a quite interesting area and we spent some time looking at all the opportunities here before heading to the way into the Lower Series. Once reaching the entrance to the Lower Series, we sent in our passage size testers, who were not able to get to the passages beyond a long low section (quite diggable). Mark and Jess then headed to the Fourth Boulder Choke to look at the Promised Land Pitch in preparation for a future trip. Keith and Brendan, then explored all low passages that fitted Chris' description of the route to the Lower Series in an effort to find the pitch to the main area. A lot of passage was followed, some pretty grottos were found along the way, but the pitch was not located.
All meeting up we then headed out together with lots of muddy, but unused tackle!

Jess viewing formations in Severn Tunnel

Mark, Chris and Keith in the Severn Tunnel

Mark in the Severn Tunnel

Footnote: John Parker's original exploration account gives a clue in that a 15 foot pitch needed to be climbed up to reach the top of the pitch down into the Lower Series. We are confident we found this and will no doubt return in due course.

Present: Keith Edwards, Mark Burkey, Jessica Harding and Chris Leach

Saturday 1 September 2012

Dan Yr Ogof - 100th Anniversary

This year marked the 100th Anniversary of the Morgan Brothers first exploration of the dry passages of Dan Yr Ogof. To mark this auspicious occasion Ashford Price and the Showcave management laid on a party at the showcaves with live music, hog roast beer and a spectacular firework display to finish off the evening. Somehow even the weather was laid on and a fine day allowed a caving trip to proceed the outdoor events in the evening.

We set of on a standard round trip and Mark had not been in the cave and Jess had not gone through the long crawl on her only visit. Our trip was slow as Keith was taking some more video footage and Brendan was taking a few photos. We missed out visiting the Rising to ensure we were out for our call out time and to change for the evenings events.

Jess at the Candlewax Formations

Jess at the Candlewax Formations

After a spruce up at the caving club we returned to be greeted by dinosaurs and a warm welcome by Ashford.

Beer was drunk, dancing was avoided, and the roasted pig was eaten before we headed to the vantage point on the track to view the spectacular firework display that rounded off the evening.

Present: Brendan Marris, Keith Edwards, Jessica Harding and Mark Burkey

Saturday 18 August 2012

Ogof Cnwc - The Mystery of the Failing Lights

Mark, the determined sort of chap he is, was insistant that he was going to go and see the Antlers and the other formations in Daren Cilau. With the entrance crawl not possible for him we turned to Ogof Cnwc as a way for him to visit Daren Cilau.

Arriving at the car park and donning our caving kit we noticed something not quite right with Mark, he had no light and helmet. It was sat on the table at home in Stratford. Fortunately Wal had his original helmet and light from when he first started caving in the back of the car and so we were able to head off to the cave. Within half and hour and not even through Ogof Cnwc, Mark was bathed in darkness as the light on Wals spare helmet gave up the ghost. Time to switch to the back up light on the helmet with it's feeble glow. Thirty minutes later it was not possible to cave by this light, batteries were swapped and the trip continued. An hour later we pause again, the light was failing and it was decided to swap to a hand held back up light, brighter but less practical, the trip continued. The route through Cnwc to Daren has been much sanitised with tight sections widened, ladders installed on the climbs - essential in most cases and other fixed aids added on tricky maneuvers. The Antlers, Urchin Oxbow and the White Company were visited before steps were retraced and we made our way out, stopping only to change batteries in Marks back-up light or swap it again when it stopped working. We were all glad to see daylight after 7 hours underground.

Mark on the Ladder in the Busman's Holiday Choke.

Mark in Antler Passage - Daren Cilau

Mark in Antler Passage - Daren Cilau

Mud Formations in Antler Passage - Daren Cilau

Present Mark Burkey, Keith Edwards, Steve Wallis and Brendan Marris