Saturday 23 February 2013

Cnwc & a one legged Grimes

Having always maintained the entrance series to Darren Cilau is the most arduous of any cave, Mr Grimes decided he fancied a go at 'the easier way in to the system' with the added bonus of trying to get me stuck in the squeezes from the other direction.
I had jokingly said my counter plan was to break him before getting there so I wouldn't have to face the entrance crawl. A throw away comment that turned out to be a workable game plan after all!
A couple of weeks ago Andy managed to walk in to a chest at work and give himself a poorly leg. A few people had suggested he get it checked out, but in typical Grimes style he'd shrugged them off saying it'd be fine. After a couple of weeks of resting it we set off to attempt a through trip from Cnwc to Darren.
No sooner had I arrived at Andy's and got a cuppa than Mel arrived to pick us up. Brendan had given us warning of diversions on the M50 and although it added a bit to the journey we arrived in good time at the car park and were soon complaining about the cold and trying to figure out why we didn't have more sensible hobbies. A hint at the temperature over the weekend was the two inch thick icicles in the entrance which looked more like prison bars, unfortunately they weren't as strong though and Andy was soon breaking his way in. We quickly made through the entrance crawls and sump bypass. It was around here Andy began to feel some discomfort, but was determined it wasn't going to impede him. On we went through to Price's Prophecy and through to the next section of crawls. These really took it out of Andy and we had to  make a decision if we should continue. After taking 5 minutes it was decided to press on for a bit. We continued through Busman's Choke and on to the start of Antler Passage. Here Andy  checked his knee, it had begun to swell and skin was peeling off. At this point we were an hour or so in and knew it was going to take quite a bit longer for him to make his way back out. We'd allowed plenty of time on our call out so there was no rush. Andy was obviously in pain and was having to stop every couple of hundred meters, He was trying to crawl using only his one good leg which resulted in a two hour return to the exit.
Sat in a warm pub half an hour later with a pint and a steak in front of us Andy conceded he may actually have to visit the quacks after all, so I may have to find another way to hobble him on the next journey!

Andy in the Prices Dig Entrance

Present: Andy Grimes, Mel Wakeman & Mark Burkey

Sunday 17 February 2013

OFD 2 - The Swamp Creek Connection

On a previous trip we made a unplanned decision to return via the Chasm, the Shakehole and Swamp Creek. With no survey or previous visit to this area it was a little impulsive and this navigationally challenging multi level route led us to miss the connection to the final section of Swamp Creek and having to return the way we came in. On this trip we wished to find the connection that we had missed so that we had the whole route in our minds for a future trip. We headed into the cave guided by Jess and took the route at the bottom of the Corkscrew via sandy crawls to lead us into the Swamp Creek area. We followed the sandy passages North to find two routes that would connect to the Swamp Creek route. One route led to a balcony overlooking Swap Creek where traverses would take you upstream to reach the chamber which we located at the end of the earlier trip. Following the other route Keith and Mark were able to follow a couple of difficult climbs to drop down into the chamber at the start of the traverse section. Now knowing that a short section of traversing onwards from the chamber would have taken us into the sandy floored passages beside Swamp Creek we were happy and continued to our Next objective Peter's Pretty passage. On route we stopped off at the top of the Knave to take photos and video while some exploration of side passages was undertaken. We had some entertainment at the climb up into Peter's Pretty Passage and ended up leaving the cameras and tackle at the bottom. With our call out time fast approaching we headed out of the cave and will return at some point to take video and photos of this area.

Jessica approaching the Nave.

Jessica approaching the Nave.

Ian approaching the Nave.

Keith approaching The Judge

Chloe in the sandy passages overlooking Swamp Creek

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

Sunday 10 February 2013

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 2 - More Route Finding

A light trip for Sunday was required after a lie in following a longer trip in Dan Yr Ogof on Saturday. Our plan was to head to Moonlight Chamber, to visit the Midnight Passage traverses and have a look at Deja Rue. We headed to Shatter Pillar with the intention of dropping into Lagubrious Passage to take an alternative route to Midnight Passage. We were distracted exploring lots of side passages and alternative routes around Selenite Tunnel and then had a little challenge dropping down the slot into Lagubrious Passage. We were soon at Midnight Passage and headed first to the 'Sky-hook Pitch' and then down Midnight Passage to the start of the traverses for Mark to have a look, in preparation to do an Upper Oxbow trip in the future. A short detour into the Doodlebug Dig was taken before we headed up to Cross Rift. Here, my memory failed me on the route into Moonlight Chamber, and Mark headed correctly up the boulder climb, while I looked at alternative routes. Mark came back and described the chamber, but we were to late to to head back to it so we made our way out following a couple of passages that we had seen on the survey that are not on our normal route. We arrived back to a deserted club, to change and make our way back through the rain and snow to the Midlands.

Jessica in Selenite Tunnel.

Jessica in Selenite Tunnel.

Jessica in Selenite Tunnel.

Present: Jessica Harding, Mark Burkey and Brendan Marris

Saturday 2 February 2013

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 2 - Prokofiev Series

The Prokofiev Series had long stood on our to do list. On a previous visit we had arrived at a very tight traverse and not attempted it as we were not sure it was the route and turned back. This was in fact the route in and so we planned our return. With a Peli Case each and a bag of tackle for Mark we arrived in good time at Timo's Table and the start of the route into the Prokofiev series. A tight squeeze in the passage leading to the traverse proved interesting for most of us and then we faced the tight traverse ahead. Keith headed off to try out the traverse, but abandoned his Peli Case near the start as it was going to be too hard to pass carrying gear. With a rest half way across Keith made it to be then followed by Mark. Jessica and myself stayed back as the pair followed the passages to a chamber with the 7m climb up towards 5 Mile Chamber. With no tackle and two of the party at the start of the traverses Mark and Keith decided to return. To get the tackle across the traverse would be too difficult, and so we made our way back to Timo's Table.

Jessica and Mark at Timo's Table.

Jessica at Timo's Table.

Jessica at Timo's Table.

With time on our hands we decided to have a look at an alternative route out of the cave. We knew that from Chasm Passage there was a large shakehole with a route down into Swamp Creek from where we could make our way out through the trade routes, or at least that was our plan. A decision made up on the spur of the moment with no survey and no preparation - What could possibly go wrong...?

We made our way along Chasm Passage and dropped down a fixed rope climb to the top of the Shakehole. Here the rocks are covered in a thick layer of moon milk, making them very slippy and covering all useful hand and foot holds. We climbed down thinking that we would not have to come back this way. The route now turned into a steep climb down loose boulders to drop into a rift passage where we could climb and traverse a route down to the stream at the bottom. This was a most unpleasant muddy slimy and wet stream and after every few metres of progress we were met with a boulder collapse and a tortuous route through to continue the exit. After nearly an hour of this we arrived at a climb up to take us into a chamber on a large bend in the streamway. We could look out from this high vantage point down into a long streamway. It looked impossible to climb down into the streamway beyond and with a wide traverse along muddy ledges as the only option we could see, we decided that we would turn around and make our way out via the standard routes. The climb out of the Shakehole proved a little tricky, and we made our way back to the caving club just on our call out time.

Present: Jessica Harding, Mark Burkey, Keith Edwards, Brendan Marris
with guest appearance from Mr Fcuk Up

Friday 1 February 2013

Cnwc to the Wriggle in Darren Cilau

On Friday Jess and I headed off for another navigation trip. This time our objective would be Cnwc through to 'Big Chamber Nowhere Near The Entrance' in Darren Cilau.
The last time I had been here I 'd had a few light malfunctions, and although I was fairly sure I would recognise the main routes, I had spent rather a significant period of time during the trip looking at my feet. With this in mind I printed off a survey the week before, and then of course left it at home!

We entered via Price's Dig around 1pm and were soon coated in thick mud as we squirmed through the entrance series and on to Price's Prophecy. Here we paused to take in the chamber so as to ensure we did not miss the route on our return as the entrance is behind boulders and not obvious from the other direction. We then headed off through the crawls to look for the way on to the Busman's Holiday choke ladder pitch.
Jess spotted the drop down through the boulders and we were soon on our way up and down, and up and down, and up and down the many climbs and ladders, until after two hours of unrelenting passage, we were finally rewarded with stunning formations at The Antlers, Urchin Oxbow, and The White Company.

After pausing to take a few quick snaps we continued in search of 'Big Chamber Nowhere Near The Entrance' which was originally my main objective' as this was where I would intersect with any group coming in via the normal entrance for a possible future trip to the Time Machine.
Once we arrived we found previous groups had left a number of surveys and descriptions, so after consulting them we decided we would continue as far as 'The Wriggle'.
This turned out to be a rather awkward looking contortion about 20 minutes from the chamber down some easy walking passage. Very happy with ourselves we about faced for the arduous trip back to Cwnc.
Again we made no errors in navigation on the return and were out well within our planned timings.

Exiting in to a very cold dark night sky with rain beginning to lash down I realised the biggest navigational challenge was going to be finding the car. After following the various paths to no avail, we ended up having to drop right down to the road and double back on ourselves before finding it!

An amazing trip which turned out to be a great warm up for the 5* outing we were to head out on with Keith and Brendan the next morning.
Jess in Urchin Oxbow

The Antlers

Big Chamber Nowhere Near The Entrance

Present: Jessica Harding & Mark Burkey