Sunday, 22 December 2013

Side Splitting Fun In Cwm Dwr

Carl sent out an email to the club with a hit list of caves, so when he asked for a trip on the Sunday I thought we'd offer him Cwm Dwr, as because of weather it was about the only viable option on his list.

Arriving a mere 20 minutes late a tired looking Carl arrived and in traditional caving style went straight for the kettle.
Carl had apparently only chosen Cwm Dwr because it is gated and he wants to get in as many difficult access caves as he can this year…..not because he was aware of it's long entrance crawl, awkward boulder choke or sometimes wet / tight passageway.

Oblivious of the pleasures to come he exclaimed, "Well the sooner we get in the cave the sooner we can get back out!" …you gotta love his enthusiasm.

The entrance pipe was flowing nicely and ensured you got a good trickle down the back going in. Carl seemed to enjoy this and was in good spirits as we made our way down an awkward climb and on to the crawls.
Popping out in to Cwm Dwr Jamma we paused to catch our breath…..Carl asking if we had to do all that bloody crawling to get out again ;)
We were soon through the passage and on to the choke where again Carl got a good taste of what Cwm Dwr is all about slithering and contorting through wet slippery boulders and then on in to Big Shacks. At this point Brendan offered up an alternative entrance to the system so we turned right, heading toward the upper Piccadilly end of the cave via a route that would miss out the main route and Smithy altogether. Again getting in to some restricted crawling we made our way through 'till we popped out out under some pretty formations. I recognised them but still couldn't orientate myself 'till Brendan pointed out that I had gone in to the crawl from this end on a previous trip. Chuffed that we had found a completely new alternative route in, we continued on to our first objective, the very pretty Tapioca formations.
I popped my ribs through the squeeze in to the area before getting my belt caught. I couldn't reverse and couldn't go forward so decided on a tactic of brute force pushing forward so hard that I began to exit the squeeze, but unfortunately my belt and over suit stayed put….doing an incredible Hulk impression I had split the shoulders of my suit before my belt broke free and the rest followed. Carl also enjoyed the snug calcite, though with far more grace than myself and Brendan barely noticed it!
The reward was worth the effort though and we stopped for a couple of pictures before heading on through the cave to see what kind of level the stream way had risen to at the confluence. Pausing again to take a few pictures we began to wonder what the time was. Carl noticed my camera had a time and date display and although it wasn't something I had set, the date was correct, so we assumed the time to also be. With only an hour left to beat our call out, we made our back with Carl enjoying the crawls almost as much as on the way in.
Upon our exit Jess looked a little confused as it turned out my camera time wasn't correct after all and we had exited a good hour and a half ahead of schedule! doh :)
Carl pausing to admire some formations

Carl posing at the Confluence

Saturday, 21 December 2013

OFD2 - Deja Rue - Been Here Before?

A seriously wet weekend meant that we were restricted as to where we could cave, and with Jess being the Duty Officer at SWCC it was just Mark and myself that headed up to Top Entrance to go and have an explore of the complex Deja Rue area of the cave. We headed into the cave quickly following Cross Rift to Midnight Passage and then heading up and past the turning to the Skyhook Pitch. A short climb down led us to a passage with an ascending boulder slope, where a body sized hole leads into a boulder floored chamber. Heading straight ahead of this chamber we found ourselves in a tall passage with a stream running in the floor. After a short distance the stream enters from the right and we continue in a dry passage ahead. Soon we are crawling through Hayden's Dig to enter the impressive Deja Rue. This vaulted passage gently meanders as it descends and is followed until it becomes sandy floored and the ceiling height lowers to enter a silted sump. Just before the sump is a small inlet passage where a flat out crawl leads past a couple of dead ends to enter a small chamber with a pile of old bang wire and multiple ways off. This is the start of a very complex area we headed off down one of the exits to the chamber and followed a maze of passages, at each junction selecting a route onward that took our fancy. Eventually en exclamation came from ahead "Come this way I've found a chamber with loads of ways off and a pile of bang wire". Arriving in the chamber it is pointed out that this is the same chamber as at the start of the circuit. We head off again now to take in each of the passages that we missed on the first circuit. We complete additional circuits until we arrive back at a familiar passage. Here we find the end of a bang wire, "lets follow the bag wire, it will take us back to the start" I exclaim, then to realise the error in my plan as we had approached this from the other end. With all passages we found explored, apart from going up the pitches that we would have to come back to with kit, we decided to head back.

Deja Rue - Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 2
Deja Rue - Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 2

Deja Rue - Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 2
Deja Rue - Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 2

Deja Rue - Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 2
Deja Rue - Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 2

Deja Rue - Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 2
Deja Rue - Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 2

A very complex area that was well worth a visit. We will return sometime with SRT kit to ascend the pitches to reach Merthyr Vale and the higher level passages.

Present: Mark Burkey and Brendan Marris

Saturday, 7 December 2013

A trip to Neil Moss Chamber Peak Cavern

After having to divert because of a road closure Jess and I arrived quarter of an hour late at Mr Grimes place to find him sitting in the car waiting. 
Fortunately it was a clear run and we made good time to the Chapel arriving at 9.05 to find Ben and Loz already there and waiting.
We headed off at around 10 to a very festive looking show cave entrance and were soon sliding our way down toward Five Arches and on through the Mucky Ducks to the start of Pickerings passage.
We made short work of the crawl before sliding over the block and on through the ‘Eye Hole’ slot and slippery rope climbs.
A final chilly, waist deep pool, and we had arrived in Neil Moss Chamber.
Jess looking good as ever as she navigates the 'Eye Hole'
Loz at the stunning calcite formations in Neil Moss Chamber
The team in front of the tube where Neil Moss is Entombed
Ben and I continued on with me getting firmly wedged as usual. Ben slipped through with ease and checked out the final chamber to see if it was worth me fighting my way through, but (fortunately) there were no rewards worthy of the efforts and bruised ribs, so we re-joined the group to take a few pictures. I managed to persuade Ben and Loz to hang around in the pool at the bottom of the chamber for a final picture before heading back.  
Some people just don't know how to suffer for my art…..Ben stop shaking you're making it hard to focus!
The challenges all seemed easier on the return and we were soon heading off to Surprise View and down the ladder to check out Buxton water Sump. Andy then led Ben and Loz toward Lake Passage whilst Jess and I took a couple more pictures before stomping along the stream way to catch up with the others. Missing the climb up we were at Boulder Hall before we released we had gone too far and about faced.
This time Andy spotted the way to the passage but was most disappointed when the sump turned out to be a rather spacious duck!
With all our objectives completed we headed out for a well-deserved cuppa and chat with the locals. 
A great day out, many thanks to Andy for leading it.

Jess in a very low main stream way

Present: Andy Grimes, Loz Appleby, Ben Marklew, Jessica Burkey & Mark Burkey

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Llygad Llwchwr – A cave of spiders, water, and two left feet.

I had decided to take a little more responsibility for leading trips and so had offered to take Becca and Amy into Llygad Llwchwr and Llygad LLwchwr Two. The trip attracted an unexpected amount of interest from other members and the group size grew to 8.
The day started in a less than ideal fashion with me showing up to Amy’s 20 minutes late after spending a considerable length of time thoroughly lost driving in circles around Spaghetti Junction due to a motorway closure. Ben also arrived 20 minutes late but as he pulled up at the same time as me, he considered himself to be on time! We met the rest of the group in Llandeilo at 10am sharp for breakfast and before we knew it we had navigated our way to the caves outside of Trapp, and we were changed ready to go.
We first climbed down the scaffold shaft into LLygad Llwchwr Two for a little poke around and to show everyone the impressive formations. Mark stopped to take a few photos then we headed back out.

Ben admiring formations in Llygad Llwchwr Two

On the way to Llygad Llwchwr we stopped for the mandatory posing photo in front of the ‘Caving is a dangerous activity’ sign. 


Everybody flew up the entrance climb, avoiding the spiders, and along to the First River Chamber which was the initial stop on the list. After a little splash around we continued back out and along the passage, past the Column, and through a duck into the maze. We followed some rift and crawling passages to find ourselves at a perfectly smooth slide of rock ending in a muddy puddle. Eight successive cries of ‘weeeeeeeeee’ followed by a splash were heard as we all came down, leading to a nice tidal wave effect as our feet hit the water which soaked the person ahead. After a brief visit to the third river chamber we continued along to the fourth river chamber. It was here that we were perching on ledges avoiding the central deep section of water when Ben lost his footing leading to a domino effect knocking into Andy, Amy and then Becca. The girls managed to keep their balance but Ben and Andy got a thorough soaking. Upon clambering back out of the deep water Ben grabbed hold of the dive rope which happened to be tucked behind my knees, catapulting me into the water as well. Satisfied that Ben had soaked enough of the team we headed back on ourselves and to the second river chamber. Natural belays were used to rig a ladder and lifeline and we popped down into the water. Amy, Loz, Becca, Mark, and I swam down the river to view the very pretty formations in the roof. It was during the swim back up river that Becca announced that she had lost her right wellie, although wasn’t too sure when exactly it happened as her feet were so numb with cold she didn’t feel it slip off! We gave up looking for the lost wellie in the deep water after a matter of minutes as everybody was getting rather cold. However a similar misfortune must have fallen upon a previous unwary caver as we had earlier spotted a lone wellie perched on the side of the second river chamber. In slight disbelief of the luck of it, we went to retrieve the stray homeless wellie. Unfortunately not only was it a left foot wellie but it was also 3 sizes too big leading to a very comical walk back out of the cave.
 left the cave with huge smiles on their faces. It was a day of much laughter and a very successful trip all round.
Loz and Andy at the Entrance
Amy Descending in to the second river chamber

Present: Andy Grimes, Chloe Burney, Ben Marklew, Becca Kirkpatrick, Amy Sawyer, Jessica Burkey, Loz Appleby & Mark Burkey

Trip report by Chloe Burney

Monday, 25 November 2013

Giants Hole group one

With a large number of people from the club wanting to join this trip it was decided to split the group into two parties, Mark to lead one, and I the other, I had decided to do the round trip beings I had a novice with me.
The day started off great with  peter and myself actually finding where Amy ( now renamed as Fred) lived, so we loaded up and set off for the peaks only to be tolled 10 minuets later that Amy had forgoten her wellies , so a quick ride back to Amy's to pick up the wellies.
we made good time to the car park at giants and where pleased to find that the others had only just arrived (apart from Ben).
A quick change and my group where soon off into giants where Pete and Josh played in the upper series near the entrance while  the rest of us slowly  made our way down garlands pot and through the crabwalk,the first rope climb came and went where Amy had a  helping hand  to make life easier , the second rope climb came and Amy was given another helping hand, then I suddenly realised I was going to have a go at starting the syphon at valentines sump for Mark but had forgot - ho well not to worry he will soon realise, we had a quick look into the connection with Oxlow and Steve found out its not advisable to go in head first as its difficult to back yourself out, next came the windpipe witch gave us all a wet ear. At the traverse I had already made a decision to lower Amy down in a harness to prevent any unforeseen problems, I followed her down while Steve and Jess carried on across the traverse, then it was just a short stomp back to the ladder and out for a nice cup of tea and await the second groups exit before heading off to the pub

Present : Andy g, Steve w, Jess b, Amy s, Peter a, Josh a

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Giants Hole Group 2


The day’s objective for our 3 man team was to head to valentines sump and access the condition of the syphon.
Firstly I was late (enough said already) After speaking with Mark on the phone it was agreed that Carl and Mark would head into Giants and play in the upper series above base camp chamber while I dragged my lazy ass to the car park and meet them at the head of Garlands around 11ish.
At garlands Pot I found a comfy spot, rested on the kit bags and turned off my light waiting in eagerness to start the days caving. I didn’t wait long. Mark and Carl greeted me, Carl with the obligatory array of swear words before informing me that my punishment for holding up the team was to carry the rope bag for the entire trip. I thought this fair and got on with it.
In minutes we were down Garlands and into crab walk. Mark had told Carl to lead as he was suffering a bout of man flu and could set his own pace. It didn’t take long to reach the vice and then down the bit that hurts any man…..razors edge. From there we spent a little while looking for the correct way to valentines Sump getting very damp in the process!
At the sump Mark explained how the syphon worked and then asked ‘’do you understand that’’ and I said yes (not really having a clue) his reply was ‘’good, because your off down there to get it working’’. Carl was now feeling quite cold and was looking like he needed a Horlicks.  I got in the water with a certain amount of gusto that soon turned to hate and loathing for Mark as the water got deeper! We spent around 15 minutes trying to get the syphon started. We thought at one point we had cracked it only it was short lived as any suction I had felt at the pipe end soon stopped, so it was back out of the water and bailing commenced. Mark had mentioned earlier that he thought the water backed up and within 5 or 6 buckets and that’s exactly what happened. Carl regained some colour at this point realising he wasn’t going to be going in the water I had just come out of!
It was decided we would head to the filthy five and look at the state of play of the sump from the other side. We retraced our steps to the kit which we had left a short while away before heading to Geology Pot. There were a few sporting bits of passage before reaching the abseil which I rigged. Mark went down first, Carl and I close behind. I was impressed with Geology having failed to find it on a previous trip. From here my memory doesn’t serve to well until we reached a small duck,.Carls reaction though was very memorable and frankly hilarious but he was through within seconds, although this ice cold soaking rendered him mute. We were soon at the East Canal. Mark traversed around easily and I followed with not so much ease. The sight of water had woken Carl up again and the swearing also commenced. Mark had said they don’t call this the filthy five for nothing and he was right. As I wadded through the mud to the first pitch I heard a almighty splash which echoed in the passage but was soon replaced with fits of laughter as we realised Carl had fell in whilst trying to stay dry traversing. Very funny. Mark was soon up the first pitch, wedging himself in whilst ascending as the bolts and rigging looked suspect, I followed and Carl was also soon up. The way onwards was a left turn over a small traverse to the next pitch but we were all in agreement that the rigging and state of the metalwork was at best dodgy and as we would be ascending the pitches without having the luxury of accessing the rigging and bolting or using our own pull through we decided to leave the climbs for a return trip.
After deciding we would now be heading out Carl who had put in a sterling effort so far looked somewhat relieved. It wasn’t quite over yet though. We all carefully descended the pitch back into the canal, Carl this time mastered the traverse whilst I had decided to wade. It was at this point Carl asked which way out we intended to go, Mark informing him the same way past the duck then finish the round trip over the top of crab walk and out. The duck was done with ease and we were soon at the Oxlow connection (Start of the Chamber of Horrors).  Carl had opted to wait a little further back while Mark and I went to check out this tight passage. I stood there laughing at Mark, thinking how abnormal this was squeezing into the tight entrance passage arms stretched out in front as he went on his front, feet first. I followed behind with the same technique but it wasn’t long before Mark hit the water. I told him I was more than happy to explore further, BUT on another day. We backtracked out and it was only the Windpipe and Garlands left to negotiate before we could taste fresh air once more. Carl looked like he was ready to commit murder at the entrance to the Devils Wind pipe but the water was relatively low considering  it can sump.
Mark had been vague with his exit strategy to Carl so the traverses were an unwelcomed surprise to him. It didn’t take us long though to get to Garlands and before we knew it we were out in the fresh air me refusing to ‘’have a go’’ at the tight Oxbow pointed out by Mark and Carl on the way out.
We were met by Andy and the others at the car park where we got changed and hijacked Wal’s food. We the all headed to the pub for drinks whilst Carl go off home for a lemsip!! A very enjoyable day, Cheers guys


Present: Mark Burkey, Carl Knott, Ben Marklew

Trip report by Ben Marklew

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Escape From Llanelly Quarry Pot

Our plan for Sunday had been to pay a return to Draenen, but an issue with keys resulted in a last minute change of plan. Daren was going to be our substitute for Draenen, but Mark then queried how close we were to Llanelly Quarry Pot. As we had ropes and SRT kit from the previous day, it sounded like a great plan. We had only one rope, so our first task when we got to the cave was to check that at least one member of the party could make it out the entrance unaided. Mark took this task and soon he had wriggled into the cave, dropped the climb and slithered down the rift. With the obstacles done he then returned, making lots of painful sounds as he pulled himself out of the slot at the top of the climb. Knowing there was a reasonable chance that at least one of us would be able to get out we headed into the cave, with four kit bags and a camera box. Mark rigged the pitch and soon we were all down and heading towards the streamway. We first headed upstream to Ryan's Duck where Chloe 'Water Baby' Burney took the lead as we headed through this long wet section. Mark was the only one of us to make the last part of the journey to the blue sump at the end of the cave. We then returned, taking photos in the Midsummer Night's Dream Streamway. On the way back downstream Mark climbed the Totem Aven Series, and is keen to go back for for a better look in future. Back at the entrance passage we dropped the camera box and headed downstream. I have to say that this was a lot more pleasant than I had remembered and will return to take some photos at some point. We continued until the passage became very unpleasant and due to time and lack of enthusiasm we made our way out the cave. Mark headed out the entrance first, taking a rope with him and after some thrutching at the top of the climb was able to tie off the rope. Chloe made the next exit, again really not enjoying the slot at the top of the climb. This just left Brendan, four tackle bags and a camera box at the bottom of the rift! I really should have seem this coming. Mark then dropped down the entrance climb and with the rope we ferried up each tackle bag and box in a similar fashion to how we had across the traverse into the Prokofiev Series. With the tackle now out Mark reclimbed the entrance. This just left Brendan who got his hips wedged in the entrance slot and after a lot of cursing and a tug from Mark popped out.

Midsummer Night's Dream Streamway - Llanelly Quarry Pot
Mark in the Midsummer Night's Dream Streamway

Midsummer Night's Dream Streamway - Llanelly Quarry Pot
Chloe in the Midsummer Night's Dream Streamway

Midsummer Night's Dream Streamway - Llanelly Quarry Pot
Mark in the Midsummer Night's Dream Streamway

Midsummer Night's Dream Streamway - Llanelly Quarry Pot
Chloe in the Midsummer Night's Dream Streamway

We had all emerged half an hour past our call out and were glad to get back to the cars and stand down Keith. We were impressed with the downstream cave passage and am sure that we will return to take some more photos and to revisit the end of the Midsummer Nightmare Streamway.

Present: Chloe Burney, Mark Burkey and Brendan Marris

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Pwll Y Gwynt - The Return

Having left one of his video cameras the wrong side of a nasty squeeze on the last trip into the cave, Keith was keen to return to take some additional footage so a video of the cave could be completed. Brendan was also keen to take a couple of additional photos and so this return trip was hatched. We had no navigational difficulties this time and we made the slow slog up the escarpment to the elusive entrance. Mark was straight in and rigged while the three remaining donned their SRT kit on the tiny ledge in front of the cave. We dropped down one by one watching giant rust flakes fly of the belay bar as we abseiled down. Finally Keith came down sporting his "Welly Cam". After Mark went back up and came back down the entrance pitch with Keith's video light we made it one by one through the squeeze to the Second Aven being videoed as we went. Our route to the Third Aven and then towards the Fourth Aven was recorded from all angles. At the Fourth Aven Chloe was videoed on the climb down where cry of "Shit, Shit, Shit, Shit" was heard in an increasingly higher pitched voice. We then spent some time in the flat out muddy crawls to take the final shots for the video.

Crawls in Pwll Y Gwynt
Chloe in the crawls in Pwll Y Gwynt

Crawls in Pwll Y Gwynt
Mark in the crawls in Pwll Y Gwynt

Squeeze in Pwll Y Gwynt
Keith eyes up the squeeze in Pwll Y Gwynt

Squeeze in Pwll Y Gwynt
Chloe Squeezes out of Pwll Y Gwynt

As we headed up the pitch we all breathed a sigh of relief as we got off the rope having seen the deterioration in the condition of the belay bar on the pitch head. Present: Keith Edwards, Chloe Burney, Mark Burkey and Brendan Marris

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Ogof Gwynt Yr Eira - Cave of the raining rocks

Gwynt Yr Eira has a reputation for being very loose and so we headed down very gingerly. The start of the cave was a little more straight forward than expected and we were able to free climb down to the top of the Drop The Dead Donkey Pitches. On the first of the pitches a fixed ladder is installed halfway down the pitch and serves to make getting on the rope a little easier. The rock ledge is littered with loose rock and one by one we made our way across and down the next pitch. At the bottom of the second of the pitches Mark had an explore of some high level leads before we dropped the final pitch towards the sumps. The streamway was followed upstream before we headed to the sump and digs downstream. We headed back up the pitches to search out the Road To Nowhere, we soon found our way through to Alaska and spent some time exploring routes in The Squalors. It was here that Mark found a promising lead and after pulling out some rocks sent Jess ahead into the virgin passage. Jess reported that she was in a small chamber big enough for a couple of people, with no way off, and so she returned. We then headed back to search for the route on. At this point Mark spotted a large block of rock peeling off the roof and shouted a warning ahead to me. The rock landing on the slope above me lost a lot of its energy and rolled relatively slowly into me - a near miss. We searched what we thought was all routes and could not find the Road To Nowhere and so abandoned the cave to return to SWCC for the bonfire night celebrations.

Above Drop The Dead Donkey Pitches
Jess above Drop The Dead Donkey Pitches

A cave that we will return to with the aim of finding the route into the Road to Nowhere.

Present: Jessica Harding, Mark Burkey and Brendan Marris

Sunday, 27 October 2013

SRT Trip to Hillocks and Wharf

Having promised Ian and Becca a novice SRT trip into P8, as the day approached and weather warning started, a back up plan was devised,  to do an exchange trip from Wharf mine to Hillocks. Although the weather seemed reasonable on the day, group discussion over breakfast came up in favour of the mines exchange, as we could park fairly near and the trip would be fairly dry.
It turned out to be an excellent plan with something for everyone - except Phil, who broke down on the way and had to spend the day sorting his vehicle! From the Wharf end, Chloe did her first lot of rigging, under supervision from Mark, which included a difficult deviation and rebelay, and Ian abseiled right down to the bottom of the Engine shaft. From the Hillocks end I rigged the pitches (for the first time in ages, but didnt want to worry Becca with that information!) and Becca coped admirably with the SRT.
We all met up under the Engine Shaft and had a poke around all the tunnels, then realised we had a perfect opportunity to practise more SRT so we girls went back up the rope, past deviation and rebelay, across the ledge and back down the straight engine shaft rope, where Mark made the girls practice changeovers.
Once Mark had derigged the extra rope we all made our way out of Hillocks. The ascent is awkward to say the least, but Ian made short work of it with a little help from Mark and some excellent coaching from Chloe at the awkward pitch head. Becca took it all in her stride, in spite of the fact that her chest croll sprung open twice on the ascent - she just swore, snapped it shut and carried on.
Once out we pulled up the last rope, jumped in the cars and we were in the pub with hot drinks within minutes. A very successful day!

Present: Mark B., Jess H., Chloe B., Becca K., Ian M.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

OFD 2 - An Introduction to the Joys of Caving

This trip was arranged for Josh, to give him a taster caving trip. I also had an ulterior motive. With a frozen shoulder I needed to see how badly it has affected my ability to go caving. Amy had recently contacted the club with a view to joining so even before I had met her, I asked if she would like to join us.

I selected the route which I believe gives new members a really good caving experience. The route was Big Chamber, Gnome Passage, Swamp Creek, Judge, Trident, Crossroads, top of Maypole Inlet, Cross Rift, Shatter Pillar,Selenite Tunnel, President's Leap, Crossroads, Salubrious Streamway and back out.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the trip, especially Josh and Amy, so hopefully we will see both of them back at the windmill demanding more trips.

Some video was taken using pre-positioned fixed lighting. It may appear on YouTube sometime in the future.

And how did I get on with my frozen shoulder? It was the best physiotherapy I could have had. After the trip I had a lot more movement in my arm. Unfortunately it has stiffened up again now, so I'll just have to go caving again.

Present: Josh Anstey, Pete Anstey, Jess Burkey, Mark Burkey, Keith Edwards, Andy Grimes and Amy Sawyer.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Lugubrious Streamway - OFD2

Our original plan was to visit Deja Rue, but due to a late start we decided on a shorter trip and to head down Lugubrious and return via Midnight Passage. We headed into towards Edwards Shortcut via a route that was alleged to miss out the traverse, but joined Edwards shortcut just before the traverse. Jess and Chloe headed across while Brendan headed with Mark via a longer route to all meet up at Shatter Pillar. Once back together we headed dropped down the hole behind Shatter Pillar to take the short passage to the hole down into the Lugubrious Streamway. We all fitted through easily this time and so started our plod down the stream. We stopped off at the balcony that overlooks the Main streamway to take a couple of photos before heading down to the end of the passage.

Formations in Lugubrious Passage
Chloe viewing formations in Lugubrious Passage

Formations in Lugubrious Passage
Jess viewing formations in Lugubrious Passage

At the end of Lugubrious we were again able to look down on the Main streamway before we headed back and took the passage on the left to head to Midnight Passage. We then headed out along Cross Rift with Mark exploring a horrid low crawl that he found in the side of the passage.

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

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Dudley Caving Club at Hidden Earth 2013

The profile of Dudley Caving Club has been enhanced over the last 2 days at Hidden Earth.
2 DDC members, Emma Porter and Dave Bowdley, helped deliver a session on cave rescue.
6 DCC members, Emma Porter, Mike Clayton, Bartek and Paulina Biela, Brendan Marris, and Dea Wilkins, were busy over the two days assisting with all sorts of things including producing the timetable, chairing sessions, judging competitions and providing technical support.
Also DCC members starred in no less than 4 out of the 7 entries in the video competition, including the opening AV for the conference and my video of Shakespeare’s Cave was awarded a merit. So I must thank all of the members who made it possible - Andy Grimes, Mel Wakman, Steve Wallis, Mark Burkey, Jess Harding, Brendan Marris and Chloe Burney. Brendan, Mark and Jess deserve a special mention as they have been the long suffering members who have helped with nearly all of my videos.
Here’s the video:


Present: John Smith, Dave Bowdley, Keith Edwards, Emma Porter, Mike Clayton, Dea Wilkins, Bartek Biela, Paulina Biela, Richard Wilkes, Jess Harding and Mark Burkey.

OFD III and the Head-Banging Traverses


After a pleasant day at Hidden Earth on Saturday, Mark and I headed off to Penwyllt so that we could go caving on the Sunday. After a bit of a false start (the key got jammed in the lock) we got into OFD Top Entrance and set off for the delights of OFDIII, with quite a lot of trepidation on my part, as Brendan had described in detail the ‘head-banging traverses’ which awaited us. Mark enticed me, however, with promises of a warm dry photographic trip – a rarity for  us caving ‘models’.
We made good time to the Crevasse and rigged a ladder down to continue. I toddled along quite happily up and down awkward climbs and across holes in the ground until we rounded a corner and came upon an impossible-looking bit. “You’ve got two choices here” said Mark. “You can traverse across this pot, feet here and arms on the wall opposite (about 12 feet away), or you can climb up this overhanging slippery climb with almost no holds, above a really nasty drop.”  While I stood there whimpering and pointing out that actually there was a third option (turn round and go back), he proceeded to shimmy up and down and across to prove how utterly failsafe any of these manoeuvres were. As he did so, I began to see that there were actually just enough footholds to traverse across upright, if I could convince my legs to stretch far enough and not wobble at the wrong moment. A deep breath and a few whimpers later and I was across!

Well, after that, the rest of the traverses weren’t really anything different from others that OFD has to offer (horrible, death defying and scary), though I did appreciate Mark showing me where to change levels etc. In fact the scariest thing was after the traverses, when Mark popped down between two boulders and misjudged slightly – his shocked face as he slid quicker and further than he meant to, followed by a thud as he hit the floor, made my heart race as much as the first traverse, but luckily he was fine. 
 
 

A squeeze up between boulders proved problematic – tight for Mark and too high for me, but he pushed through, and I got there by standing on the camera box, which meant we had successfully completed the planned route. So far so good for the warm dry trip – now for the photographs…he only found a waterfall for me to stand in! Just downstream of where OFDIII drops into the streamway, I got to get thoroughly drenched for the sake of art!  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Stopping for more photos on the way back, we made our way back across the traverses to the scariest bit. With Mark standing underneath and guiding my footsteps I actually found it easier on the way back, but then had to be helped on all sorts of silly bits afterwards – I think I used up all my adrenaline! I froze solid on Poached Egg Climb, which I’ve never struggled with before and called Mark back to help me. He then tripped over his feet and rolled down the slope to me, just stopping before the drop. With my heart thumping over the near miss, he then made it a hat-trick by standing up under a boulder and cracking his head hard enough to see stars. Personally, I just think he’s trying to catch up with his mates Brendan and Keith for injury time.
Very happy with the trip, the photos and the conquest of the head-banging traverses, we made our way back to the hut.
Present: Mark B., Jess H.

 

 

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Pwll Y Gwynt - Mud, Sweat and Tears

We headed out to photograph and video a cave that has little record of visitation. Over the next few hours we were to find out why so few venture to this cave. With a good description, an accurate grid reference, a GPS and the benefit of seeing photos of the cave entrance from a previous group's visit we headed along the tramroad with a certain degree of confidence.
Beyond Eglwys Fean we left the tramroad and headed up the slope and gradually veered right until we were above the cliff beside the tramroad that contains the entrance to Agen Allwedd. From this point onwards the ascent was very steep, following the edge of a scree slope as we climbed to a gully nearly 80m above the tramroad. Once the gully was reached the climb became steeper and our search for the cave began as the GPS now indicated we were less than 30m from the entrance. We split up and combed the escarpment looking for the entrance. For the next two hours we traversed, climbed and looked at every possibility. Mark headed high, while Keith traversed along the escarpment at a lower level. It was at this point that Mark made his bid to appear in the Dudley Caving Club Hall Of Fame for loosing his SRT kit. Previously SRT kits have been lost in the Green Canal, dropped into a 20m deep sump and today's entry was to drop it into a tree. As Mark descended from the top of the escarpment, it was clear that he could not stop himself slipping off and keep hold of the tackle bag at the same time. He cried out it's going to be me or the tackle bag, a few seconds of clinging on before a cry of 'below' came and the bag bounced down the slope then over the top cliff. Keith was below and shouted frantically not knowing wether it was a bag or person who had come down. Mark could just make his way down now and we headed to the bottom of the cliff where the bag should have been and to meet Keith. No sign of the bag though, Had it gone all the way down to the tramroad? Just then Keith spotted it stuck up in the tree. Keith climbed up the tree that grew out of the cliff face above the perilous scree slope 80m above the tramroad. We held our breath. It was retrieved and after picking up a few items that had fallen out we continued our search. Two hours forty five minutes after setting out Mark found the entrance, we had all been within 10 feet of it earlier in the day.

Looking up at the escarpment from the tramroad

Keith at the entrance to Pwll Y Gwynt

A flat out crawl through the body sized entrance led to the head of the first pitch. Mark rigged from the two scaffold bars at the top of the pitch. The second one giving the best hang, although we are not sure how long it will last as it is well corroded. Once we are all down our next challenge awaits as we find a squeeze links the First and Second Avens. Mark quickly decides it is to be done without SRT kit on so once de kitted tried again and after some thrutching made it through. Brendan followed next and took three attempts to make it through and the finally came Keith, but unfortunately leaving the Gopro behind.

Squeeze from First to Second Aven - Pwll Y Gwynt
Keith in the squeeze from Second to First Aven - Pwll Y Gwynt

A short crawl led us into the Third Aven where we traversed around a ledge to take us into a crawl heading to the Fourth Aven.

Squeeze from First to Second Aven - Pwll Y Gwynt
Keith in the Third Aven - Pwll Y Gwynt

A climb up and then along a short rift took us to a point 5m above the floor of the Fourth Aven. A climb down a slippy rope took us into this impressive chamber.

Keith and Mark in the Fourth Aven - Pwll Y Gwynt

From the Fourth Aven the way on was a low crawl leading off from the opposite side from the climb down. From here the cave becomes muddier and muddier as we crawl towards the Fifth Aven. The progress is slow as the mud is very sticky and the passage low and tight in places. We missed the climb up to the Fifth Aven on the way in as it is in a rift in the roof, but on reaching the 'Quick Way' we returned to find it.

Approaching the Fifth Aven - Pwll Y Gwynt
Keith approaching the Fifth Aven - Pwll Y Gwynt

We attempted the 'Quick Way' on the way out, but turned back after a couple of body lengths. The squeeze proved easier on the way out, unfortunately the scree slope was more tricky going down than on the way up to the cave.

Present: Keith Edwards, Mark Burkey and Brendan Marris