Saturday 30 March 2013

OFD2 - Up Swamp Creek Without A Paddle

This was a trip planned to introduce Becca and Paul to caving with Dudley Caving Club with a circular trip around OFD Top Entrance. Our plan was nearly foiled before we got underground after it took two people to unfreeze the lock to gain access to the cave.
We first headed to Big Chamber Near The Entrance then across and along to Bagpipe Chamber. From here we headed to the top of Arete Chamber where some photos were taken and then on to the Corkscrew Climb via the Wedding Cake. We took the sandy crawls at the bottom of the Corkscrew Climb to lead us to Swamp Creek, where Mark and Keith tried out the traverses upstream and Brendan took some photos with the rest of the party.

Sandy Passages Near Swamp Creek - Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 2
Paul in the sandy passages near Swamp Creek.

Sandy Passages Near Swamp Creek - Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 2
Becca in the sandy passages near Swamp Creek.

Swamp Creek - Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 2
Paul at the formations in Swamp Creek.

From Swamp Creek we headed past the Judge and Trident to the follow Salubrious Passage to Maypole Inlet. Once across Maypole Inlet we had a look at the climb down and then headed to Cross Rift. With time on our side we then headed to Midnight Passage so Keith could take Mark along the first section of the Midnight Traverses.

Midnight Passage - Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 2
The team in the chamber in Midnight Passage

The return leg of the journey took us to Shatter Pillar and Selenite Tunnel and across President's Leap. Once at the Crossroads we headed up Salubrious Passage to make a standard exit via White Arch.

President's Leap - Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 2
Jessica crossing President's Leap.

Salubrious Passage - Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 2
Paul on the short traverse in Salubrious Passage.

Present: Keith Edwards, Mark Burkey, Jessica Harding, Paul Hayes, Becca Rawlinson and Brendan Marris

Friday 29 March 2013

A trip to Pendulum Passage

Mark and I met with Brendan at South Wales Caving Club on Friday morning, and after some deliberation around the teapot decided to go and explore Pendulum Passage in OFD II.

Brendan decided on a short cut via Chasm passage. Rigging a handline, Mark free climbed. Having a little more sense and as we were carrying SRT kits anyway, Brendan and I abseiled down after him.

Half way along The Chasm Brendan started chuckling as he realised we were approaching a particular climb up, which I had dubbed the “stupid f***ing ladder climb” during a previous trip where I had numerous attempts at climbing it, only to Tarzan-swing back down the hand line - finally demanding a ladder!
Of course this time there was no ladder…

I eventually got up with help from Mark and Brendan and my jammers, but still not happy with the climb!

Arriving at Pendulum passage I was the only one already wearing SRT kit so went ahead and rigged the first pitch. The bits of tat provided for deviations bore no relation to the rigging guide we had but I continued anyway, finding that the rope length suggested was only just enough to reach the bottom. Unfortunately I rigged one of the deviations far too short, which tested Mark and completely confused Brendan!

Continuing along past many awkward climbs and 2 more short pitches we reached an exposed climb down to the stream way which had been our objective of the trip in preparation of a possible exchange with the Nave in the future. Going back up, prussiking past my short deviation again proved quite a challenge!

Once out of the Crevasse we went to explore nearby passages of the Nynth Bran area. One section opened out on an exposed ledge way up in the roof of Chasm passage. Mark, of course, had to go off squirreling “I’ll just see if this is climbable…” and found it far more difficult to get back!

We retraced our steps, with me struggling AGAIN down the “stupid f***ing ladder climb”, and when we got back to the handline to climb up out of Chasm, Brendan and I took one look and put our SRT kits back on. Mark however, being Mark, decided to free climb up… Brendan swore at one point he saw his bottom lip quiver and Mark all but grip the line with his teeth as he went past the overhang. Prussicking up the 9mm dynamic rope attached to rusty-looking bolts wasn’t much less scary though…

Chasm Passage - Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 2
Jessica in Chasm Passage.

A thoroughly enjoyable trip and a good start to our Easter Long Weekend of Caving!

Present: Jess Harding, Mark Burkey, Brendan Marris

Thursday 21 March 2013

Electronic T Card System

The electronic system running on a laptop computer powered
from the vehicles auxiliary power socket.

I think that I have now completed all of the development work for the first release (beta) version.
I've created a website using my personal web space at where I've made the system available as a 60 day time limited download.
The latest enhancements are:

  1. I've added another box to the status screen - number stood down. The background to this turns green when this equals the number deployed.
  2. A secure front end has been added. Users enter their team name which then saves the workbook branded to the team. The system will then work for 60 days. After this it needs to be registered to unlock it.
  3. Instructions for importing team members and equipment are included.
  4. The incident log is now locked down so that entries cannot be tampered with.
If you have a few minutes feel free to have a play with it and let me know if you manage to break it.

Sunday 17 March 2013

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu and Downey's Cave

After the adventures of Saturday something more sedate was called for Sunday, so Jess and I decided on a trip in to OFD1 as we had only ever travelled the 'trade routes' for through and round trips. As we were intending to head to a couple of spots Brendan had also not been to, and as I'm still coming to grips with the new camera and lighting, he decided to come along.

After a brief visit to take a look at Gothic sump we headed off to Skeleton Chamber where Brendan and I went down to take a look around before scrambling back up the awkward climb out. Continuing on to Pearl Chamber the wet flat out connection was rewarded with an unexpectedly pretty section of Downey's cave. After a thorough explore, and a number of photo's, Jess decided she was bored of lying around in cold water for my art and we headed back out to Main Passage. Poking our heads in to the rifts and bedding planes of Short Cut Passage we regrouped at the climb to the Fault Series where again we were pleasantly surprised by the unusual passageway and formations before us. Again some time was spent taking pictures and exploring before moving on to do the escape route in reverse to come down via Airy Fairy Traverse. With our call out time approaching we took a quick look at the 'Wall of Death', though none of us fancied giving it a go, before heading out for the stomp back up the hill.

Fault Series Main Passage

Jess admiring an unusual formation in the Fault Series

Beautiful gower pools and formations in Downey's Cave
Present: Mark Burkey, Jessica Harding & Brendan Marris

Saturday 16 March 2013

Prokofiev Series - following the footsteps of Peter and the Wolff

Although the Prokofiev Series lies only a few metres from Timo's Table on the trade routes in OFD Top Entrance, it is rarely visited. Very tight squeezes, an intimidating traverse and an exposed 7m free-climb will put off most people from visiting this area, as it had ourselves on two previous occasions.

With water levels too high to do the Farr Sump Extensions in Peak Cavern we diverted to South Wales to attempt the Longer Crawl in Dan Yr Ogof. We found water levels here too high to get into DYO and so resorted to back-up plan C, the return to the Prokofiev Series.

After 30 minutes in the cave we had reached Timo's Table and prepared for the misery to commence. The first obstacle is a tight eyehole squeeze in a rift which was made more difficult with the amount of tackle that we were carrying. This led to some holes in the floor and then to the start of a very intimidating traverse along a rift. The rift is over 7m deep and although wide enough to pass through at the top level, it tapers in gradually lower down. With few foot holds available, a combination of friction, willpower and bottom wedging manoeuvres are needed to reach the other end. One false move or slip would result in sliding down in the rift and having no hand or footholds to get yourself out. With Mark across Graham went next taking the end of the rope with him so a Tyrolean could be set up to ferry the tackle bags and photographic boxes. This went like clockwork and with all the gear across the rest of the group then came across with Brendan loosing faith in friction half way and Keith muttering words that sounded like sheer panic as he fought his way across with two video cameras.

From the end of the traverse sandy floored rift passages were then followed towards the sound of a stream to find a small chamber with water entering via a shower inlet.

Jessica - before the climb - Prokofiev Series.

Graham - before the climb - Prokofiev Series.

From this chamber a short climb led to a passage with a small stream in that was followed to another small chamber and then to the bottom of a further chamber. Here a narrow slot in the far wall led up to a passage some 7m off the floor. Mark took it upon himself to lead this bold climb with Jessica belaying. Partway up a dodgy old hanger in the wall provided a psychological belay and allow Mark to bridge past a wide section with no hand holds and make the final move into the passage. Once in the passage, the tackle was hauled up and a ladder rigged for the rest of the party.

Jessica belays Graham on the climb - Prokofiev Series.

A short section of passage now led to a point where it opened out to a rift dropping into Five Mile Chamber. Lack of slings led to some ingenious but disconcerting rigging from where we descended the 10m ladder to land in the lower end of the chamber. Some photos and video were taken in the passage before we made our return.

Graham and Jessica at the ladder pitch - Five Mile Chamber - Prokofiev Series.

Keith at the far end of Five Mile Chamber - Prokofiev Series.

The way out went smoothly until the traverse gobbled up Jessica, we all thought she was a goner, but Mark stepped in and hauled her out of the rift by her belay belt.

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

Sunday 10 March 2013

Srt day in Oxlow cavern

Since attending a SRT training day and managing to not kill or injure myself, Mark and Jess had agreed to take me on a novice trip. So as promised, Mark Jess Phil and I met up at Morrison’s in Buxton and headed towards Oxlow Cavern. Andy, Carl and Grant had gone on ahead to start rigging.
When we arrived at the parking spaces, Mark managed to once again get the van stuck in the mud and took great joy in splattering us as we pushed him back out. Jess and I decided it was far too cold to get changed outside so we commandeered the back of the van. I got all my shiny new bits of SRT kit out of their packaging and with a little help from Jess managed to put it all on. We battled knee deep drifts of snow and gale force winds to reach the cave opening, leaving us all wishing we had stayed in bed. One by one we dropped into the entrance shaft, leaving Mark to get cold in the snow as retaliation for the mud spraying incident. As we were preparing to drop down the second pitch we could hear an abundance of swearing coming from the darkness ahead, indicating we were closing in on the boys. We descended down the pitch without issue and found Andy waiting at the head of pitch 3. This pitch involved a diversion which, despite Mark and Andy making it sound complicated, Phil and I passed smoothly. After going down another short pitch we turned around, Grant de-rigged, and we began the long haul back out of the cave. The entrance shaft seemed like it was a mile long and the excitement of reaching the top was soon quashed as I realised there was close to a blizzard blowing on the surface. With numb and painfully cold hands, we each headed back off the hill as quickly as possible.
After using the back of the van in relay to get changed again, we headed to a pub to warm our toes by the open fire.
Report by Chloe Burney

Present: Chloe Burney, Phil Lester, Carl knott, Grant Wilkes, Andy Grimes, Mark Burkey & Jessica Harding

Oxlow cavern March 10th 2013

On a very cold wintry day with wind chill of minus 100 , well it did feel  felt like it , our group consisting of Mark, Andy, Grant , Carl, Jess and Cloe made our way to Oxlow Cavern in Derbyshire. Andy , Grant and Carl set off before the remaining group to set up the rigging for the SRT trip ahead of us. For me it was my real first SRT trip, so while not nervous ,in the back of your mind , you wonder what could go wrong.On arriving the fields and hills where covered in snow and and the thought of going into a warmer cavern was a relief while we got changed. A short walk to the entrance and then the descent on the pitches.

   Mark ,Jess and Andy made me  very comfortable with using the SRT and i knew i was in safe hands all the time. Well we came out into freezing ,almost blizzard conditions but with the feeling of confidence with SRT caving. Many thanks to Andy ,Jess and Mark for them arranging the trip and guiding us with the SRT. Plus of course we was a team, so thanks to Cloe,Grant and Carl for there effort to explore Oxlow Cavern.

Phil Lester