Monday, 9 July 2012

Tunnel Cave

After having done the 3 highest peaks on mainland Spain last weekend Jess and I felt somewhat prepared for the arduous hill climb to the entrance to Tunnel cave in South Wales.
We had arranged to meet with Andy and Mel at the roadside diner for Mel to fuel up for breakfast, but Mel had taken her car for a change and as we didn’t recognise any of the vehicles, we wound up pulling in and out of the stop thinking they had already made their way to SWCC only to get a call telling us we needed glasses and had driven straight past a bemused Andy and Mel J
Re-grouping we collected the key for tunnel and headed off to Dan-Yr-Ogof car park.

After an half hour plod up the hill we paused to regain our breath. I rigged the entrance series, down the shaft to the second pitch, and was soon at an impressive calcite slope. Here a hand line is in place part way down, this continues around a quite exposed traverse, and drops down another steep calcite slope to balcony ledge and on to Cascade Aven Chamber. Andy, Mel and Jess soon followed and here all SRT kit was dumped in preparation for the rift passages.
Straight ahead the route took us down a couple of climbs, one with a hand line in situ, although all were easily free climbable, though quite high, and on to some classic rift passage. After an awkward climb up we continued to traverse and crawl in the tubes and rifts following the description & looking out for Marble Arch Passage on the left to show we were on the right track. Eventually we came to a low sandy flat out crawl with a couple of squeezes. Deciding that I’d obviously missed something we back tracked and found that we should have dropped a little lower in the rift and we had actually taken Marble Arch Passage itself. Back on track we made our way to Saddle Corner and climbed up to a small left hand crawl into yet more traversing rift to Cross Junction. After more awkward climbs the passage began to open out and we eventually arrived at the air lock doors where we paused for a couple of pictures and a well-deserved break.
Jess At The Traverse

On the way back we tried to follow the rift at a lower route, which found us losing our way once again and after analysing the cave description Mel realised we had made our way to Xmas Grotto. We had dropped out of the rift at a very awkward climb down and wasted half an hour finding an exposed traverse to take us back on track. Mel bypassed this finding a very tight climb up that none of the rest of us could follow and Andy was in fine verbal form letting us all know his displeasure at having to traverse at high level again!  Faced with yet another awkward climb down, around a corner and sliding down a tube with nothing to hold on to for the last six feet, Andy ordered me ahead so he could stand on my back to get down. Jess went next and rather than stepping off my shoulders wound up sitting on my head and pinning me to the boulders!!!
Back to the entrance series we de-rigged as we made our way out and were soon back on the hilltop looking forward to a drink in the pub on the way back.
The Team At The Air Lock

A very impressive entrance series with a fun high route to what must be the only cave in the country to have a set of UPVC doors at its heart!
As ever my thanks go to everyone involved, although I’m not sure we’ll persuade Andy to do a return for the through trip!!!

Present: Andy Grimes, Mel Wakeman, Jess Harding & Mark Burkey

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