Saturday 24 August 2013

A quick run around Cwm Dwr

As the dig was taking a little longer than anticipated to pump out, Jess and I took Chloe, Ian and Becca for a quick trip in to Cwm Dwr.
Jess had been kind enough to sort out the caving gear as I had been working non stop with late nights the week before. Reaching the entrance shaft I realised Jess hadn't actually put a battery in my helmet and after snapping at her (sorry honey!) she kindly swapped helmets and went off to sort the battery issue.
I dropped down first followed by Becca, Chloe and Ian, then poor old Jess arrived after running back to the van.
After seeing Becca and Chloe to the beginning of the crawls I set them loose and continued in with Ian and Jess to re-group in Cwm Dwr Jammer.
We made our way through to the choke to find a couple of lost cavers trying to find their way in to the choke for a through trip, so letting them tag along we took them through and explained their route before we continued on through to The Smithy and Picadilly.
On our return we found our lost cavers.....lost again, after checking they knew their way from The Confluence we again set them on their path before making our way out and re-joining the dig team.

Present: Ian Millward, Becca Kirkpatrick, Chloe Burney, Jessica Harding & Mark Burkey

Sunday 18 August 2013

A gentle Sunday stroll around St. Cuthbert's Swallet

Having enjoyed the trip into Swildons on the Saturday, we split into 2 groups again on the Sunday. With Chloe leading a party into GB, Brendan, Keith, Mark and myself were booked to go into St. Cuthberts. On the day however, Brendan decided to join Chloe and co. as he had hurt his leg the day before, so only the 3 of us met with Estelle our guide.  
Estelle pointed out the valve which cuts water flow off from the entrance of the cave, and we descended the shaft to the head of the entrance rift. “There’s lots of hand and footholds, just watch what I do” she said, and then proceeded to slither down the rift faster than the eye could follow! After we had also wriggled down (not as gracefully or speedily) Estelle proceeded to show us around the cave.

We were led down a series of fixed ladders into ‘Wire Rift’ (a steeply descending tight rift which was easier than it looked – at least on the way down. Once in the main cave we were overwhelmed by several things;
  •  the variety and number of fabulous formations, such as the Pillar, the Cascades, the Curtains, the Octopus, the Beehive…
  • the diversity of “challenges” the cave threw at us in the way of climbs, wriggles, slides and thrutches…
  • the array of passages and chambers in the cave (about 7km of passage in a 3-dimensional maze)
  • our guide Estelle, who outcaved us completely! Keith described her as ‘like watching a time-lapse video – don’t blink or you’ll miss her!’
We regained a little of our dignity (and puff) when we stopped for a quick break and Estelle offered to show us more of the cave than is normally seen on tourist trips, as we were caving so fast!!! Dignity went straight out the window for me however as the first challenge was climbing a vertical water chute which looked impossible from the bottom and I squeaked like a girl. 

The ‘extra’ tour completed, we arrived back at the entrance series, where I made very heavy work of ‘Wire Rift’, tiring myself out completely before even attempting the tricky final rift upwards. Estelle went first (fairly slowly!) showing me where the holds were, and I wriggled up slowly. At no time did I feel scared of falling, as the rift is so narrow that you only have to bend your knees and you’re not going anywhere. In fact that was the problem near the top – no matter how I wriggled, I wasn’t going anywhere! A final thrust and pull on the arms however and I was up and out, hurray! 

While Mark and Keith easily followed me up the rift, Estelle and I climbed out of the shaft. I didn’t quite get to the valve in time to soak the boys unfortunately, but maybe next time – I’d definitely love to go back to this cave and explore it with a little more time.









Mendip Weekend - Team GB

I had been told it was time for me to fly the nest, stop being the baby caver, and lead a trip of my own. So following a request from Becca, we arranged to go into GB.
After I had a little last minute studying of the survey, Ian arrived at the Shepton and we headed off to Charterhouse. Once parked and changed, there was a short walk to the cave. From the entrance passage, we took a flat out crawl to enter into Mud Passage. The group popped down two climbs to arrive in The Gorge, where we crossed The Bridge for a little jaunt around White Passage and Rift Chamber. The plan from here was to go down the Oxbow to the Ladder Dig Extension and so I led the group through a crawl on the right. After about 50m of squeezing and contorting ourselves, the passage opened into a 20ft hole which I dropped myself into. When about half way down I realised there were no further hand or foot holds. At about this point, I heard Brendan call from the back of the group that he didn’t remember there being any crawling or a drop in the oxbow, and it soon dawned on us that I was in fact half way down the 20ft ladder pitch heading into Bertie’s Pot. I was going to need some assistance getting back out! So with Brendan gripping my belt, I had to perform a series of belly flops to propel myself back up to the passage floor as graceful as a seal getting out of the sea. After our little navigational mishap, we quickly found the actual Oxbow and Brendan gave a demonstration of how to rig the ladder pitch from the bottom. Unfortunately we had run out of time to explore beyond the ladder and headed back straight along the Main Chamber. Before exiting the cave we briefly explored the top end of the Gorge in search of the car. Although we saw various pieces of car shaped metal fragments, we were unable to find the car in the thick slippery mud on the steep slope.
It had been a very enjoyable trip with a team that communicated fantastically and with a great feeling of camaraderie. Most importantly I managed to not kill, injure, or lose any of my team!

Report Chloe Burney

Present: Chloe Burney, Becca, Ian Millward, Loz Appleby and Brendan Marris

Saturday 17 August 2013

Swildons Hole; Too greasy for Chloe and a close shave for me!

With Team 1 heading down to take a look at sump 2, Mel, Jess, Keith, Chloe and myself headed off to do the round trip.
It had been some years since Keith had done the route and I had been a little preoccupied worrying if I’d get through the squeeze the last time I did it to take much notice so wanted to use the trip to learn the route.
Allowing the others a head start, we ambled down the lane and followed in at a leisurely pace until we could hear the unmistakable shouts from Mr Grimes as he verbally assisted his team down the pitch.
I’d remembered Steve finding a bypass to the rift on a previous trip, so at this point Keith and I popped over the top whilst the girls took the lower more awkward route.
Soon we arrived at Tratman’s Temple and on to the Greasy Chimney where Jess managed to defeat her nemesis and got up without issue. Mel and Keith followed with Chloe playing snakes and ladders before finally admitting defeat and treading all over me…….again!
Soon we were at the first of the troubles, which was nothing more than a damp crawl. Continuing on we were offered a number of alternatives. Splitting up we each took a route to see if anyone recognised anything and after going a short way up and down some slippery slopes I turned around, sure I hadn’t been there before. Re-grouping we continued to retrace and search for the way on ‘till Keith took a look at the way I had been and announced that he had us back on track…Doh!
Down the slippery slope and around the corner we found the drop down to Blue Pencil passage. I had heard tales of this awkward, tight route and fancied giving it a go. We all made our way down the steep climb to the head of the rift where Keith dropped down first explaining the way through was on your side, legs first, then once around the tight dog leg bend you needed the turn face down and make your way on to a tight ledge (on Keith’s first visit he had gone head first through the rift and had a very scary moment having to lean out in to thin air over a 15ft sheer drop, hence the advice of doing the passage backward)
After a little grunting Keith was through. I followed shuffling my way down the passage until firmly wedged with my kneecaps bent slightly the wrong way. Fortunately I’m getting a little more used to this type of predicament and so little by little I wriggled this way and that, shaving a little here and there until eventually my legs released and I was around the corner. The aforementioned ledge proved too tight for me to get fully on top, but I managed to get one half of my bulk on the ledge and one leg in the tight rift, then shuffle backward till Keith called out that I was at the precipice of the drop. Fortunately there is a chain to assist to the stream way at this point.
Mel followed; as usual skipping through spaces that I had struggled and making the obstacles look easy!
Once in the stream way we ran up and down to take in Sumps 3 and 4, as well as the aptly named Cowsh Aven before making our way back to re-group with Chloe and Jess.
At this point it was decided that with the lost time navigating and the time spent doing Blue Pencil Passage, the other team may be concerned if we continued on and exit late. Happy we had learnt the route to the main ducks, and having ticked off Blue Pencil we made our way out to be greeted by the rest of the team, who were indeed not far from worrying about our timings.

Present: Keith Edwards, Chloe Burney, Mel Wakeman, Jessica Harding & Mark Burkey

Sunday 11 August 2013

Dan Yr Ogof Round Trip

Dan Yr Ogof Round Trip

Chloe had been dying to get in to Dan Yr Ogof ever since she’d discovered a love for water in White Scar on our Yorkshire club outing, so when Brendan suggested it as an option for Sunday she jumped at the chance. Jess and I needed one more trip to cement navigation of some of the main routes and so tagged along as model and lighting donkey respectively.
Jess took the lead and did a sterling job leading through the lakes, a short stop in to take a look at the impressive Straw chamber before shuffling our way through the Long Crawl. After traversing around the Chrystal Pool we popped up to Flabbergasm Oxbow where Chloe and Jess had a little fun with the slippery slope. On we trekked through the Grand Canyon and Monk Hall before spending some time taking in the beauty of Cloud Chamber.
Next up was probably Chloe’s favourite, the Green Canal. Donning a jacket and ring she was soon in her element sploshing along through the canal with us trying to keep up. We took a quick detour to The Rising and paused for a few pictures on the return before making our way down The Abyss and under the Camels Hump. We were soon making our way through the impressively formed Bakerloo Straight, past the Washing Machine and retraced our steps through the long crawl and out. A fantastic cave which Jess managed to navigate without issue and a great way to finish the weekend!

Jess in Go Faster Passage     
Jess just past Go Slower Passage
Present: Mark Burkey, Jessica Harding, Chloe Burney & Brendan Marris

Saturday 10 August 2013

Ogof Pasg – Ogof Foel Fawr & Llygad Llwchwr Two

Ogof Pasg – Ogof Foel Fawr & Llygad Llwchwr Two

After meeting for a quick cuppa in the Co-op, Jess just had time to stock up her supply of cakes and Dairylea Dunkers before we headed off to Herbert’s Quarry. After changing we walked up the hill to an unstable rock face. Brendan indicated a hole at the top and Mark attempted to dive in. He had gone a matter of inches before the puffing, panting and shuffling as the entrance was much tighter than anticipated. After about 30 seconds Mark’s feet disappeared into the crack, to be followed by the sound of falling rocks and a little voice saying ‘it’s quite unstable in here….’. Brendan’s face turned from amusement to a slight look of confusion and guilt as he had no recollection of anyone finding the entrance tight before and upon peering around the rock face a little further, Brendan realised this was not the entrance to Pasg after all and Mark was redirected to the actual Ogof Pasg entrance.
Upon entering the cave, we passed through some walking and crawling passages at a reasonable speed until we came to the top of the 10m pitch. Once Mark had been the guinea pig, testing the integrity of the rope that was in-situ, we all followed down and were soon chilling in the canal whilst Brendan took a couple of photo’s.

Chloe exploring passage in Ogof Foel Fawr
A short time later the U-bend was reached which forms the connection to Ogof Foel Fawr. As the name suggests, this involved a back bending contortion through some water. Beyond this the trip came to a halt at a tight squeeze over a large fallen slab. Rather than getting nervous watching others attempt the squeeze, I decided to push myself forward and go first. Once I had removed my helmet and with a few hands to provide some grip for my feet I slid through far easier than I was expecting. Following my path, Jess popped through with a little assistance, leaving the guys on the far side. Brendan tried posting himself through in several places and gave up quite quickly, whilst Mark pushed himself a few feet into the squeeze before retreating. After proclaiming that he had been through previously and so didn’t need to go again, Brendan found a low by-pass on the right of the squeeze and made his way through with Mark following. Mark tried from the other side to fit and again made it a few feet in before admitting defeat. In true bragging fashion, I volunteered to pass back through the squeeze again for photos, just to make sure I had something with which to remind Mark of my victory. Before too long we had made it to the cave entrance and made our way back down the hillside.
Chloe squeezing over the block in Ogof Foel Fawr

Still grinning from my achievements, I proclaimed that it was too early to go back to the club and wanted to do another cave. So under some slight coercion, Brendan led us to Llygad Llwchwr. After Mark and I popped up into the original cave, we climbed down into the entrance of Llygad Llwchwr Two for a little wander around. These few short passages of cave were surprisingly well decorated and deserved to be photographed. After Mark had received a photography tutorial from Brendan, and Jess and I had become rather cold posing for shots, we headed back above ground.
Whilst Jess and I changed Brendan wanted to take a look at a dig in the shake hole near the cars and Mark followed him to 'Heavens Gate' after half an hour they both emerged covered from head to toe in thick mud.....apparently there was nothing heavenly about the dig at all!

All in all, three short but great little caves!
Jess in Llygad Llwchwr 2

Trip Report Chloe 'The Slim' Burney

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

Sunday 4 August 2013

Clydach Gorge Caves - Wet Caves and Black Neoprene

The plan was to complete some video footage of Shakespeare's Cave which was started last year and then to have a look at a couple of other caves in the gorge. After breakfast in Luigi's we headed up to the gorge and parked in the layby. Here we clad ourselves in neoprene, turning the heads of many of the passing motorists.

Shakespeare's Cave
We made our way down through some very dense undergrowth to the River Clydach and then crossed to enter Cwm Pwca and find the entrance to Shakespeare's Cave. A short pause to set up the video gear and then we were heading through the cave. Backwards and forwards through the ducks to ensure that suitable video footage was recorded we made our way through the cave to approach the final sump. We then headed out the cave, a little quicker than on the way in, with only the mud in Stratford's Bypass causing a delay to our exit as we all slipped backwards trying yo make our way from the Fifth Duck.

Beyond the Fifth Duck - Shakespeare's Cave
Chloe beyond the Fifth Duck - Shakespeare's Cave

Beyond the Fifth Duck - Shakespeare's Cave
Jess beyond the Fifth Duck - Shakespeare's Cave

Ogof Nant Rhin
We headed back to the road and up to the large layby where we dropped down to find the recently refurbished entrance to Ogof Nant Rhin. A cautious entry to the cave was made as we threaded our way through the scaffolded rocks until we were in the solid passage of the cave. We headed first to Aven D'Oznog, splitting up and following the different levels along the phreatic shelves in the tight rift passage that leads to it. Once all there, Keith had to leave and head back to the Midlands. The rest of us then headed to the Garden of Delights and the far reaches of the cave with Mark crawling through the Jaws of Death and staring up into Kerplunk Aven.

Ogof Nant Rhin
Chloe just inside the entrance of Ogof Nant Rhin

Ogof Clogwyn
Our final cave of the day was Ogof Clogwyn we followed the stream down the gorge from Nant Rhin to the point where the stream from Ogof Clogwyn entered the gorge and climbed up from there. The route was quite slippy and very unpleasant. We spent and hour in there and only lost Jess once, before heading back to the cars.

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