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

Sunday 12 August 2012

Swildon's hole to Sump 2

Chloe had messaged a few weeks back asking for a trip toward her new neck of the woods. The lads were also aching to get back underground so for something a little different I offered up a Swildons trip to the sumps.

Recruiting Wal as a second experienced caver I arranged to meet everyone at Priddy on Sunday morning. Wal hadn't been in to Swildons since the movement at the entrance, so after kitting up in the barn he took the lead and we were soon stomping over the fields. In fact he was so keen he kept stomping straight past the entrance  ;)

After giving everyone a good soaking getting in, Wal took the lead up through a dry route crawling over pots before dropping back down to a part of the entrance series I recognised.
Crawling through water and descending cascades we soon reached the head of the 20ft pitch which was already rigged. Everyone negotiated this with ease and we were soon making our way down the rift (Wal climbing over) and on to the double pots and through to sump 1. The water at the sump wasn't the highest I've ever seen it, but was definitely still a sump. Before anyone could talk themselves out of it I dived through so I could take pictures and was soon followed by the entire team.
After pausing for a pic at the Wookey hole sign we continued on to take in sump 2 and on our return climbed the slope to have a poke around before heading out.
Half way back through the sump I snagged a pulley on my belt and had to re-arrange myself and catch my breath before pushing back through, I must say it was quite amusing seeing the look on everyone else's faces whilst they made sure their belts were tightened with nothing hanging loose:)
On the return Chloe began to tire until half way up the ladder pitch her strength deserted her.
Fortunately said pulley that had caused me grief earlier came in to its own here and we set up a hauling system to assist her up. Ben and Grant helped Wal at the top of the pitch with a second line belaying whilst Carl and I stayed at the bottom to haul. After a quick rest and some of Carl's chocolate, Chloe felt ready to give it another go and was soon at the head of the pitch. Although tired she had no further problems.
Arriving at the last climb up I glanced to my left to see Chloe disappearing after Wal down a tight rift passage. After a little coaxing Chloe and Wal decided to re-join us and we were soon getting a good soaking as we exited.
The team at the entrance

All in all a great trip. I would just like to say a quick thanks to Graham and Emma who had only done an exercise on options for this exact scenario a few weeks ago at the club. It meant that Wal and I could deal quickly with the situation and ensure it caused as little problem at possible.

Chloe coming through sump 1

Steve Wal Wallis, Ben Marklew, Carl Knott, Grant Wilkes, Chloe Burnley & Mark Burkey

Saturday 11 August 2012

Another Croesor Rhosydd Through Trip!

As Andy drove us toward North Wales on Saturday morning he asked how much further than the lake the walk in  to Croesor was, to which I replied......what lake? we knew that the trip could be interesting, we just didn't realise how interesting it would become!

Aside from only a minor navigational blip, the walk to Croesor was straight forward. Andy struggled a little with the steep sections and sat himself down at one point declaring he would go no further! After a little persuasion, promising him the mine was only over the next rise, we had him back on his way and were soon kitting up ready for our adventure.

Our first problem came at the bottom of the first pitch where I couldn't for the life of me remember where the second pitch was and a 20 minute scout around the chamber ensued before Mel spotted the rope coiled at the top of the pitch. Andy and I glanced at each other knowing that if it was coiled there was likely a problem and, after checking, found there was indeed a cut in the rope that had been isolated with an alpine. We had brought a 30m rope that could be used to drag people out of the water if needed, but if we were to continue it would mean using the rope in situ.
After re-checking the rope I was happy enough with the condition to use it and do a mid rope change over to pass the knot. After doing this I saw the last party had obviously ignored the mid section rope protection and could see where the rope was going to rub, so shouted up to Andy and Mel that after passing the knot they would need to remove and then replace the protection as they went past it.
 Mel was next and managed to get herself hung up as her foot loop turned out to be just a little too long which in turn left her hand jumar just out of  her reach. Cursing like a navvy she finally managed to free herself and came smoothly down.
Andy was next and as we watched his light come in to view a sizable piece of slate hit the floor beside us, so we quickly backed off. As we did Andy shouted "Below!" and another piece came down hitting Mel in the hand! Nothing looked to be broken, there seemed to be no swelling so Mel decided to push on.
There were no further issues as we took on the zip wire, traverses and bridges (even with half of the last bridge of death now gone!) and we were soon at the last abseil. Andy and I pulled the boats across and Andy descended first, moving backward to allow room for Mel next and sat in a nice pool of water :) Mel was next and half way down the pitch her hand spasmed and let go of the thin 9mm rope for just a second and plummeted the final 10 feet to land half in / half out of the boat! After this last scare the final prussik and exit went smoothly and we were soon in the sun making our way back to the car, happy we had managed to take on the dangerous trip, with the only fatality being Andy's kit bag which had commited Hara-Kiri between the first two absiels!

Present: Andy Grimes, Mel Wakeman & Mark Burkey

Sunday 5 August 2012

Tight Cave - Large Caver II

We set off for Llangattock with the aim of having a look at a potential dig site near to and above the final aven in Ogof Rhaeadr Ddu - the only cave that so far has defeated me - 3 times! But we were persuaded by Jess to take Mark off her hands for the day and he wanted to go caving.
After the customary brekkie at Luigi's in Abergavenny we set off for Whitewalls to see if we could blag a key to Aggy or Ogof Gwaliau Gwynion (for Brendan to photograph). On the way to Whitewalls we stopped in the Clydach Gorge to have a look at Coal Tar Cave which is on the left near to the top of the gorge. On arriving at Whitewalls we found that no one was at home.  Mark asked what other caves there were in the area which did not require a key. I jokingly replied, "Daren Cilau", but Brendan wanted to have a look at a dig at Chrochan Sion Hopkin at the western end of Mynydd Llangatwg. It is a very impressive 45m deep dig in a shake hole that has required some serious engineering with loads of metalwork.
We then drove to the Llangattock tram road to have a look at our original aim - the potential dig site above Ogof Rhaeadr Ddu. After having a good poke around we concluded that it would require serious engineering and wouldn't be worth the effort as it would only drop into known cave, so it looks like I will have to assemble a team of very thin headbangers to have my 4th attempt on the cave.
It was now half past three in the afternoon. In my opinion, which Brendan shared, too late to go caving. Afternoon coffee and cake got our votes, however Mark had another idea - he wanted to have a go at the entrance series to Daren Cilau so reluctantly that's where we ended up.
I'll let the photos tell the story. The video will follow in the next fews days.

The Team: Brendan, Keith and Mark.
Daren's entrance. The tackle bag gives an indication of the size of the passage.
Mark in the same location.
Brendan in a typical section of the entrance series.
80m in is the first obstacle - the vice. Mark likes vices!
Mark sliding into the vice.

After backing out, Mark has a second attempt. This and the next photos are from the far side.

Mark making the vice look cosy.

And even cosier.

The next bit required helmet removal.

But it was no good.
Brendan guided him back out.

Mark emerges from his first attempt on Daren. 
And tells the story.