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

Sunday 1 September 2013

Tight Cave Larger Caver - the 10 Box challenge

As many of Keith's Youtube fans will know, Mark has attempted the Daren Cilau entrance crawl in the past, only to get turned back at the Vice. A couple of trips into Daren via Cnwc (Price's Dig) proved more successful, enabling us to view the amazing formations, but the entrance crawl remained unconquered...

Chloe had been angling for an easy Sunday caving trip that wouldn't leave her covered with bruises (she's going to be a bridesmaid), so Mark decided that the Daren entrance crawl, 550 m of crawling over stones, thrutching through rifts and over boulders and several tight squeezes would fit the bill exactly! Determined to make it to the end this time, and figuring that the 'squeezy' bits in the crawl may be a matter of technique, he roped Andy in as our guide for the day.

With more than a little trepidation the 4 of us met up at the car park and were at the entrance just after 10am. Daren Cilau has a series of emergency telephone boxes (not the sort you put coins in) which we planned to count on our way in, so that we could check our progress. Box 10 was our goal, and Box 0 was just by the entrance. And we're off!

The crawl as far as the Vice was deceptively easy, and the Vice itself definitely a matter of technique; with Andy leading the way (ON YOUR LEFT SIDE!! ON YOUR RIGHT SIDE!! ONE ARM FORWARD!! ) we soon popped through. Box 1! The going got a little harder...Box 2! And yet harder...Box 3! Just when we thought we surely should be at the end...Box 4! Only half way! Then the crawl got really awkward, with many tight rifty thrutches in cold water...Box 5! And then it got even worse...Box 6! At last we got some respite as we were able to get to our feet - stooping mostly though and tight rifts, nothing too easy...Goodness knows where Box 7 was! Now we knew we were approaching the crux of the crawl; the calcite squeezes. Would we get through? Or would all our efforts be in vain and would we have to turn back?

Well...the calcite 'squeezes' turned out to be one of the easier parts of the crawl! We all slipped through with no fuss, technique definitely helping, but none of us found them tight at all. Fantastic! Box 8!

Quite happy with the 1 1/2 hours it had taken us to get in, we made our way onwards, through the  boulder choke (Box 9), and Jigsaw passage (Box 10). A quick wiggle through the Wriggle and a stomp along big passageway brought us to Big Chamber Nowhere Near The Entrance, the chosen destination for our trip.

Oh the ecstasy, the smiles and congratulations! And how quickly they faded as we realised we now had to do it all again! (Except for Mark, of course, who was bouncing like a puppy.)

The reverse trip was uneventful but arduous, especially when we got back to the Vice. Andy and Mark seemed to slip through fairly easily, but Chloe and myself found going out on our left side a lot harder than coming in on our right side. With a lot of heavy breathing and a few squeaks we finally both got through, and then it was just a short crawl to the exit. We had gone a little slower on the way back and so were really starting to feel the cold when we popped out into glorious sunshine.

Mark's now planning a 'proper' trip into Daren... I may be washing my hair that day. Chloe?? Andy??...Keith??

Present: Andy G. Mark B. Jess H. Chloe B.