Sunday 29 September 2013

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.



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