Wednesday 31 December 2014


A few weeks ago we did a very enjoyable through trip in OFD along the main streamway. At the time Mark mentioned that one option for the through trip would have been the high level series along the Midnight & Marble Showers traverses. 
Most normal people shudder at the thought of traversing on tiny ledges 70ft above the water, but I thought this was a great option – I hate the streamway! I find it really unnerving that the floor is so uneven and I can’t see where I’m putting my feet, so I end up crawling along at a snail’s pace and find it utterly exhausting.
When we realised that it would just be the two of us caving on New Years Eve I asked if Mark would lead me along the traverses for a through trip from Top to Cwm Dwr. 

In spite of the fact that we were both still suffering from Man Flu and a bit stiff from the previous two days’ caving, we were ready to go underground by midday. Anticipating a fairly swift trip, we left call out for 7pm. Penwyllt was a hub of activity with everyone preparing for the New Year’s Eve festivities, and not many groups were going underground.

We soon arrived at Edward’s Shortcut and as usual I fluffed the slither down the slippery chimney with Mark having to catch me. The trip onwards was fine however, and soon we were at the Midnight Traverses. These were dealt with rapidly and we arrived at the rope ladder, which thankfully has been repaired and fortified since the last time we were there, when it looked ready to give way.
Easy walking passage and a short traverse followed up to a junction. We could hear the stream far below, but it wasn’t obvious which way to go, Mark chose the right hand passage. 

This was followed past some pretty formations to a flat out crawl which seemed to end in a choke. After a little hunting we spotted a squeeze through at floor level but Mark wasn’t sure he recognised it. 
We retraced back through the crawl to try another passage which forked off, but this also closed down. 
Back through the crawl again to try the squeeze through! I had to take my helmet off and wriggle hard, and at the tightest bit my long hair got stuck under my shoulder, wrenching my head back and causing me to squeal like a stuck pig. Trapped by my own hair! I got through to a small chamber but the way on looked just as gnarly and unforgiving, and Mark was sure that we had gone wrong somewhere.
Back along the flat-out crawl for the 4th time Mark took full advantage of our navigational blip and took a couple of photographs of what we later found out was Sandfill Passage.

We made our way back to the junction and this time Mark recognised the correct way down to the traverses. The only problem was, without being able to see the streamway, should we head right or left? Right seemed the logical continuation of our route, and there were obvious footprints to follow on the tiny ledges.
We went on for some time and mostly the traverses weren’t too bad, though a bit sparse in places. You have to work your way up and down the different levels to find footholds, and with a bit of squeaking I followed Mark down a 20ft ‘controlled slide’ down the rift to reach a small ledge, followed by a thrutch to get to some wedged boulders. Unfortunately, when I joined him there he was looking rather worried.
“Umm I can see the water now” he said, “and we’ve been going upstream…”
Unfortunately we also seemed to have run out of ledges. Looking back at the last couple of moves we had done I tried to work out if I could possibly reverse them and ‘controlled slide’ back up the rift. It really didn’t look likely and the streamway was still a long, long way down if I slipped. Can’t go forward, can’t go backwards; the only option seemed to be to stay put and wait for the call out! I imagined the happy faces of all at Penwyllt as they spent their New Year’s Eve looking for us instead of celebrating.

Luckily Mark was a mountain goat in a former life and managed to spot some tiny ledges leading us down nearer to the water. The ledges crumbled as I manoeuvred my way down in his wake but eventually we safely made it to the bottom and breathed a sigh of relief. 
Although my relief was somewhat short lived as I realised we had dropped in to the main stream way just before the 15ft pot and I'd have to do my least favourite part of the through trip after all!!!
Quite tired by now I jumped in to every deep pot swimming across till we finally reached the confluence. We opted for a route out up the Cwm Dwr stream way and climb up the waterfall to the Smithy before heading through the choke and crawls to reach the SWCC for 6PM!

Jess on Brigadier Glennie's Ladder

Jess in Sandfill Passage

Jess in Sandfill Passage

Jess in Cwm Dwr Jama

Trip Report Jess Burkey

Present Mark Burkey & Jess Burkey

Tuesday 30 December 2014

The Waterfall Series OFD

After a tiring trip on Monday we decided to have a later start and something a little gentler for the Tuesday.
We had previously done part of the Waterfall Series and decided to finish this interesting area of OFD.
We made our way down the hill and were soon splashing through the stream way to the waterfall itself.
Brendan set up for a shot of the traverse to the top of the waterfall and after a couple of test shots managed to kick one of his flash guns off the rock bridge to the stream way below!
After collecting the pieces we re-set for the shot and continued on through the wet way up in to the East Leg. We had a good squirrel around this area before heading over to the West leg and again a good play in all the passage way. We had noted an unusual 'Acorn' shaped formation on our last visit and Brendan took a shot of this whilst I had a play with my camera in Top Way before heading back out for the obligatory pot of tea and cake.

Jess in the East Leg - Photo by Mark Burkey

Jess in Top Way - Photo by Mark Burkey

Jess on the traverse up to the Waterfall Series OFD1
Jess on the traverse up to the Waterfall Series OFD1

The 'Acorn' formation - Waterfall Series OFD1
The 'Acorn' formation - Waterfall Series OFD1

Jess and Mark near end of the Flood Escape Route
Jess and Mark near end of the Flood Escape Route

Present: Mark Burkey, Jess Burkey & Brendan Marris

Monday 29 December 2014

Ogof Craig-a-Fynnon Where We Flu through the Promised Land!

Having gorged on turkey and mince pies for the whole of December Jess and I were ready to try and work off some of the seasonal fare.
We'd both come down with colds but were raring to get back underground. Brendan joined us at Luigi's where we started the day with a good breakfast before heading in to Craig-a-Ffynnon.
We were at the Hall of the Mountain King in under an hour and it was beginning to look like we would fly through the planned trip to the Promised Land. The Severn Passage crawls began to take their toll as we dragged the tackle bags and boxes through with us. On we plodded through the Fourth Boulder Choke and to the head of the Promised Land pitch. I had thought this was a straight forward drop, but it turned out to be a somewhat over complicated traverse to an awkward overhanging, but short ladder pitch.
Reaching the main junction I soon forgot my coughing and spluttering as I took in the impressive passage. We went left first to take a look at the Pagoda before continuing on through the Promised Land.
Brendan hadn't been to this part of the system for over a decade, but a couple of things stood out in his memory; the first was an awkward tight drop down a rift.
I took a couple of tries at this, indeed finding it both tight and awkward. After a couple of failed attempts Brendan went first so that if I got stuck I'd have someone to push off!
Eventually I managed to contort my way through and Jess followed with no problem. The other obstacle Brendan recalled was a very awkward climb for which we fashioned slings and boxes to assist us.
Once past this we were soon in beautiful passage adorned with stunning gypsum crystals. At the end of the system we found a tight rift which we could see opened up the other side of, but this was far too tight for any of us to attempt.
We had used up several hours getting this far and it turned out to be a real struggle to make it out for our call out time which were eventually exited slightly late for. Brendan rushed down to the car to let Keith know we were out safely.
After wrestling with the frozen lock I eventually re-grouped and we changed quickly in the frozen night and headed off for showers and the tea pot at the SWCC.

Jess at the Pagoda formation - Photo by Mark Burkey
Pristine passage way at the end of the Promised Land - Photo by Mark Burkey

Jess admires formations in the Promised Land - Photo by Mark Burkey

Mark Burkey in The Promised Land - Ogof Craig A Ffynnon
Mark Burkey in The Promised Land - Ogof Craig A Ffynnon - Photo by Brendan Marris

Mark Burkey in The Promised Land - Ogof Craig A Ffynnon
Mark Burkey in The Promised Land - Ogof Craig A Ffynnon - Photo by Brendan Marris

Present: Brendan Marris, Mark Burkey & Jess Burkey

Saturday 27 December 2014

Christmas trip - Alderley Edge copper mines

For our Christmas adventure we had wanted a sociable trip that wouldn't be too cold or far to travel so Brendan arranged two leaders to take us into the Alderley Edge Copper Mines. With Keith dropping out due to man-flu and Helen stranded in snow, the remaining 9 of us met up with our leaders Nigel and Ed in the car park opposite the Wizard Tearoom. We had a suitably festive walk through a holly filled, snow topped wood to reach the West Mine entrance. Shortly after entering the mine Rob announced that his Duo would have to be returned as he had put new batteries in but it was still very dim. I jumped at the chance of showing off my new Scurion and offered to be his guardian angel of light. My responsibilities of guiding Rob were pretty much instantly forgotten as I went wandering off at the
bottom of the ladder. Soon afterwards I learned that Rob had done a good job of trying to break his neck falling in a hole at the bottom of the pitch....... Oops!
After an inspection of Rob's light a problem with the batteries was identified and once resolved we continued onwards. We spent a while exploring the 3 main levels of the mine before heading back out to the surface. We had a brief stop off at the cars to grab a biscuit or two then had a short walk to Engine Vein which was the main attraction. None were disappointed as we descended the ladders to find the most vibrant blues and greens of malachite and other minerals leaching through the walls. After exploring the passages at the bottom of this relatively small mine, we stopped for some photos on the way back out. Our leaders had prior engagements to rush off to, so once changed, we said our goodbyes and headed to the pub for dinner where we felt a little muckier than their normal clientele.

Blue Shaft - Engine Vein - Alderley Edge Copper Mines
Loz and Chloe in the Blue Shaft, Engine Vein, Alderley Edge Copper Mine

Blue Shaft - Engine Vein - Alderley Edge Copper Mines
Chloe in the Blue Shaft, Engine Vein, Alderley Edge Copper Mine

Above Lion Chamber - West Mine - Alderley Edge Copper Mines
Loz climbs up to the level above Lion Chamber, West Mine, Alderley Edge Copper Mines

The group in the Engine Vein - Alderley Edge Copper Mines
The group in the Engine Vein - Alderley Edge Copper Mines

Trip Report: Chloe Burney - Photos: Brendan Marris

Present: Chloe Burney, Loz Appleby, Richard, Andy Kempster, Ian Millward, Mark Burgess, Tony Ferran, Rob Campbell and Brendan Marris

Thanks to our guides from Derbyshire C.C: Nigel Dibben and Ed Coghlan

Friday 19 December 2014

Video Highlights of the Caving Year

Here's the video I cobbled together and showed at the meeting on 18th December.  It's now been uploaded to YouTube so if you missed it or fancy taking another look, here's your chance.

I always enjoy putting these compilations together and looking back over caving the year brings back loads of great memories.

Thanks to all of the people who have assisted in this production. There are 15 of you and some of you are real stars. I must say a special thanks to Brendan, Jess and Mark for their help and encouragement, and an extra special thanks to Loz for risking life and limb to add that special bit of drama to the production.

Thursday 18 December 2014

Xmas Social At The Mill

Again a very well attended gathering for our Xmas Social / Best bits 2014 video premier!

Marry Christmas & Happy New Year to all!!!

Sunday 7 December 2014

A Giant Ole at Giants Hole!

After adventures on Saturday we planned something a little more sedate for Sunday.
Crystal and Mark had enjoyed their trip with us so much they were chomping at the bit to get underground again, so we decided Giants Hole would fit the bill.
Arriving at Peakshill Farm I popped out to take a look at the large sink hole that had formed by the track. This has dropped in to some old mine passage that runs under the road and is something of an impressive sight!
We had no sooner reached the end of the track and parked before we were joined by Mark, Crystal, Mel and Keith.
This was Crystal's first experience of changing in cold by a field and I think she was suitably impressed ;)
We were a little worried of how long such a large group would take so I ran on ahead to rig Garlands Pot whilst Keith ran Crystal and Mark through the oxbow in the entrance series.
We really needn't have worried, everyone flew down the ladder pitch and it wasn't until we reached the Vice that I caught them, all of our novices hadn't even noticed it, but unfortunately as it gets nearer to Christmas, so my figure gets a little more like Santa, so I had to dive under, and when I say dive my legs were waving in the air for a bit as I jiggled about trying to get the mince pie and turkey filled belly through.
Jess did a sterling job navigating the round trip and Crystal very much enjoyed the aqueous nature of the cave, especially since Mel had told her it was large passage and dry. Each obstacle was dealt with without any problem at all by the group and after only a few hours we were emerging in to a snow storm!
Hurriedly changed we headed to the Wanted Inn where we partook in beverages and mince pies to finish off our Pre-Christmas weekends caving :)

A big Ole!! The mine shaft collapse next to the drive

Giants hole....a little pot of gold at the end of the rainbow

What a funny looking bunch!

Mark at the entrance to the windpipe

Who ordered the snow!?!

Present: Mark Burgess, Mell Bell, Jessica Burkey, Chloe Burney, Keith Edwards, Loz Appleby, Crystal & Mark Burkey

Saturday 6 December 2014

Peaking at Titan & out in time for Turkey!

After hearing that the TSG were having their Christmas get together this weekend and were rigging Titan, Jess thought she'd be cheeky and ask if there was any chance of tagging along. Not only were we warmly welcomed to have a limited group join them, but we were even offered Christmas dinner as well!
There were only a couple of bunks available at the TSG, but as Jess and I were stopping in our van that meant there would be space for 2 further people to join the team. Chloe and Loz were the first to show interest so their places were secured.
We all arrived at the Chapel for 8.30am and were soon changed and ready. There were a few large groups on the board going to Water Icicle, one doing Peak and out through Titan, and another doing The White River series. We introduced ourselves and explained that we'd contacted about joining the Titan through trip to come out of Peak Cavern. Excellent was the reply and a key and bag of rope were thrust at us.
"Aren't we joining anyone?" I enquired, but it turned out that they wanted us to rig the entrance shaft and we would be the only group doing the through trip from that end.
As we had never been to Titan before we asked around for directions and were given some vague hand gestures.
Loz drove us up the lane and after questioning a couple of times if I was sure that we were going the right way, gently coaxed her car up the rough boulder strewn track.
It turned out that the vague hand gestures were sufficient to find the entrance after all and I was soon rigging the shaft to enter.
The 45m entrance shaft dropped to piece of passage with pools of water and rounded a corner to the very impressive head of the 141.5M head of Titan itself. I have to say even though I abseil every day for a living this was still something of a knee trembler as you get on the rope. I looked around with my Scurrion on full power and was met by a void of darkness below. As I descended toward the Event Horizon my light pierced the darkness and I begun to appreciate the scale of Titan itself. I whooped like a kid at Christmas as I reached the Event Horizon and the hanging re-belay. I had heard tales of Wal getting hung up here and was careful to ensure I didn't make the same mistake. I was soon at the base of the pitch on the boulder pile and waiting for the others to reach me. As each descended they were backlit by the next persons light as they reached the Event Horizon and the view was amazing. After just over an hour everyone was at the base of the pitch. We made our way through the boulder choke and to JH without any problem. As we exited I couldn't remember which way we turned. I knew we'd be going down The Bung though so figured down stream. I turned left and was met by the water flowing upstream so begun to head the other way. Jess was heading toward me and said that the stream was flowing upstream as well. Odd I thought, Oh well we'd try my way first then and see if the stream way split. We eventually hit a sump and had to retrace back only to find Jess's water had mysteriously changed direction and was in fact flowing downstream. There were no other navigational blips fortunately and we progressed through the various obstacles, traverses, ladders, canals and the infamous Colostomy crawl to the show cave in good time, exiting before the Christmas Concert which was due to start around 4pm.
The TSG did us proud with a fantastic 3 course Christmas dinner and wine flowing aplenty!

Loz and Chloe at the Titan entrance shaft

Loz at the Event Horizon

Jess reaches the bottom of the 141.5M pitch

Ummmmmm where are we?!?!

The girls exit Colostomy Crawl

Present: Jess Burkey, Chloe Burney, Loz Appleby & Mark Burkey

Thursday 4 December 2014

Bowled Over at the Christmas Meal and Social

The Fountain Inn at Clent saw the biggest gathering of Dudley CC members for many years, if not ever. Over 30 of the Clubs finest met up in the skittles room at the Fountain for an evening of traditional pub games and a hearty Christmas meal.

The Christmas meal in the Skittle room

The Christmas meal in the Skittle room

John, never far away from the food.

The winners - third place Lucy, runner up John and top of the pops Chloe.

Wal hits more with his lorry on an average day than the skittles.

Many thanks to Chloe for organising and all the members who turned up to make this such a successful evening.

Sunday 30 November 2014

Swimming with the fishes, a classic OFD through trip.

For the second trip of the weekend it was decided we would do a trip we had been planning for the week before, the through trip from OFD 1 to Top.

As we had arrived back quite late after grabbing a meal on the Saturday, Chloe decided rather than pitch her tent she would stop in the bunk house.....this turned out to be something of a mistake as she didn't quite manage two full hours of sleep with people popping in and out of her room till 6am!

After seeing the state of her, Jess and I asked if she wanted to change plans, but Chloe had been looking forward to having another go at this classic trip.

Chloe again led the way in and stormed through the OFD 1 stream way to the connecting choke. After the choke and through the connection her memory began to fail her a little navigationally. But we still made good time through OFD 1.5 to the Letter box connection where fatigue began to slow her down a little so we took a break for some photo's before continuing.
Again tiredness took over on the divers pitch climb so I took full advantage of this and instead of assisting her down took lots of photographs whilst she clung to the rock! ;)
After again having offered to cut the trip down and exit via Cwm Dwr, Chloe declined and we continued through to the main stream way.
For Chloe it's climbs, for me its squeezes, for Jess it has always been stream way that has been her Kryptonite, but it seems having a Scurrion and a couple of years more experience she has overcome her nemesis and I found myself struggling to keep up with her new found confidence!
The girls spotted some albino fish swimming in the stream way before joining them swimming across the pots whilst I did my best to traverse them. At Marble showers I set up my flash guns, with Chloe backlighting, and Jess modelling I balanced my front flash gun on a rock and.........splash! The flash gun was also swimming with the fishes :(
By the time we reached Maypole inlet I think it is fair to say that Chloe's criteria for her caving weekend had been met. She barely had the energy for the climb and was very happy to see sunlight as we exited after 5hrs of fun and photos!

Jess and Chloe at the letterbox

Jess and Chloe at the Divers Pitch

Jess in Marble Showers

Present: Jess Burkey, Mark Burkey & Chloe Burney

Saturday 29 November 2014

Dan-yr-Ogof & Sucking the fun out of caving

I had been lacking enthusiasm for organising a trip for the weekend so Jess and Chloe decided on a couple of trips.

The first was to be DYO....... Jess wanted to do the tighter bit of the longer crawl as she had previously done the whole route, bar about 5m of tight squalid crawling. Chloe's only prerequisite was that she wanted a couple of challenging trips as she hadn't found anything tiring of late......Chloe has previously asked for trips that scare her and trips that she would find 'memorable' in the past and this weekend we were again able to fulfil her criteria :)

Entering through the show cave we were in for a pleasant surprise with reindeer, penguins and father Christmas lining the route in!
Sploshing through the lakes I noticed a passage off which I had previously not explored. Fairly sure it would be the way in to the Syphon Series I called the other two to follow and we did indeed find a couple of pieces of pipe in a clear pool. After a couple of minutes priming the pipe we headed off for our round trip whilst the syphon did its work.
On our way through we took a quick detour to Wigmore Hall and up the old dig at the end before continuing on through to the climb up to the longer crawl. The crawl itself was somewhat more strenuous than I remembered as this time I had my camera box catching and jamming every couple of feet, but we were soon through the worst and continuing with our round trip. Chloe led the way with only a couple of pointers for route finding.
On our way out we decided to take a look at the syphon and found that there was a good foot and a half of air space and the syphon still going strong. We were well within our call out time so decided to go and have an explore. I led the way and was soon lying in gloomy mud with a foot of water covering it as I negotiated the duck through to the muddy section of the series. We headed down the passage way first slipping and sliding our way through copious amounts of sludge until we reached a sump. About facing we headed the other way until we reached a blocked constriction. This was at the foot of a very muddy and slippery slope and both Jess and Chloe were in fits of giggles as they tried to turn around in the very small chamber at the end and slid all over the place. On our way back through the duck we headed up a more inviting looking passage which soon turned in to a sharp and awkward rift. Again this was followed to its conclusion taking pieces of my suit with it (back at the hut I would check the survey and find this passage aptly named 'Razor Passage')
Back in the lakes we washed off the sludge and mud......Jess was sure we'd actually found the sewage series rather than the syphon series.......before returning to warm up with a luxuriously warm shower.

Jess tries to ppppick up a penguin!

Chloe finds Santa stuck in a squeeze!

Jess in the cascades between the entrance lakes

Chloe negotiates the tight longer crawl

Jess in Bakerloo Straight

Present: Mark Burkey, Jessica Burkey, Chloe Burney

Saturday 22 November 2014

Northern Lights Series OFD II

Jess and I were joined by a poorly sounding Brendan on Saturday morning for the drive down to South Wales.
We had a brief stop to pick up an 'on the road breakfast' at a garage on the way and were at the club and ready to head underground for just before 11am.
Jess chose the trip and John (an SWCC member looking for something to do) decided to join us.

As we made our way through  to the cross rift it became obvious that Brendan was a little more under the weather than he'd realised. With nose running and bloodshot eyes he headed slowly out to go and nurse both himself and the teapot back at the club.
John had last been to the Northern Lights series over a decade before and Jess and I had been a few years ago. Because Brendan knew the route we hadn't bothered to bring any survey with us, but before departing Brendan had given us a quick description of the route in and we were pretty confident that we could find our way.
Jess led us through to midnight passage where John and I took over the route finding past the pull through to the upper oxbow series, through wet crawls, Mudlust hall, Moonmilk revelry, across an awkward exposed climb, sand crawls and down a body sized tube until we were at the very wet dogleg crawl which would lead us in to the rest of the series.
Here John decided he would need to start heading out as he'd promised to play taxi driver for his daughter. After saying our goodbyes Jess and I continued through the cold water to a rope climb up in to a roof tube. Although we were pretty sure the way on was straight ahead we wanted to explore every passageway as we went, so followed the passage in to opposite direction down a slippery climb in to a water filled tube.....
"I'm pretty sure we've just done a round trip", I called to Jess and soon emerged at the foot of the rope climb we had just done! ;)
On we went exploring as we went all of the passage in the area through to 'The Blockhouse' Where we heard another party coming through. Together we explored the furthest reaches until the other group began heading out and Jess and I took a few photo's as we retraced our route.
Brendan had explained there were two routes in to the system, the one we had taken and a tight rift. He had advised we try the tight route on the way out as if I didn't fit on the way in it was a long way to retrace our steps. Finding the rift I headed down first and found it not too bad at all.
Route finding became more interesting on the way out until we found the body sized tube we'd come in through. Picking up the Moonmilk Revelry we were back in familiar territory and after grabbing a few more photographs we headed out to meet up with Brendan for a good dinner in Abercrave.

Jess in Moonmilk Revelry

Jess in Keyhole passage

Jess entering through the wet dogleg

Present: Mark Burkey, Jess Burkey, Brendan Marris and John SWCC