Saturday, 11 January 2014

Collective Amnesia in the Upper Smithy

The Upper Smithy is a remote and rarely visited high level area of Cwm Dwr that we last visited seven years ago. Our return trip was planned so we could explore all areas, using the fab new Cwm Dwr survey, to video and to take photographs of this area of the cave. The Upper Smithy is divided into two sections with the southern part accessed by scaling a steep calcite slope that rises above the route from The Smithy to Nether Rawl. From the top of the slope a passage can be seen in a wall opposite, which is reached later in the trip. The calcite slope heads up into a lofty calcite covered passage to reach a junction where ahead the passage lowers through some decorated sections to reach a choke after 100m. Heading right at the junction reaches a section of taped off passage containing a crystal pool. We then headed to the northern section of the Upper Smithy where one route took us via some low sandy crawls into a section of magnificent phreatic tube. This is beautifully decorated and meanders until it starts to form a keyhole passage and descends steeply. We followed this to the bottom, where it turns sharp right and becomes a rift passage, before ending on a balcony overlooking the calcite climb that we used to access the southern end of the Upper Smithy. We photographed and videoed the passages back to a point where a climb up leads to a series of even higher passages can be entered. Climbing up to this higher level we reached a fork in the passage, with one branch taking us to a point where we looked down on a floor of loose boulders that formed the roof of a passage we had visited earlier. We did not wish to risk following this branch as is was shown to quickly close down on the survey. Mark and Keith went up a climb just before the point we looked down on the loose boulders to reach an even higher level. Jess and myself followed the other branch to reach a climb up loose boulders to reach the passage that Mark and Keith were in. We decided that the first climb was the safer and headed back to climb it and join Keith and Mark who were now at the traverse above the climb that we chose not to take. We followed passages with breakdown to reach another climb up loose boulders and a traverse to reach a continuation of the passage. Keith and myself were convinced we had not been to this area before and we followed Mark along a phreatic tube in more stable rock. Eventually we reach a window over a gaping chasm. Instantly Keith and myself had total recall - we had indeed been here before. A muddy balcony a few feet below the window allowed us to drop down and then traverse along to a steep boulder and slippy mud floored chamber. Mark and Keith descended as far as they dare to view what is labelled on the survey as "Deep Shaft", while Jess and myself headed up the chamber to reach the choke at the top of the passage. Reviewing the time we decided to head out, taking a couple of photos in this highest level of the passages. Our exit was uneventful, the climb out of the chamber in the northern section providing the only fun and games.

Upper Smithy - Cwm Dwr
Jessica Burkey - Upper Smithy - Cwm Dwr

Upper Smithy - Cwm Dwr
Jessica Burkey - Upper Smithy - Cwm Dwr

Upper Smithy - Cwm Dwr
Jessica Burkey - Upper Smithy - Cwm Dwr

Upper Smithy - Cwm Dwr
Jessica Burkey - Upper Smithy - Cwm Dwr

Upper Smithy - Cwm Dwr
Jessica Burkey - Upper Smithy - Cwm Dwr

Upper Smithy - Cwm Dwr
Mark Burkey - Upper Smithy - Cwm Dwr

A long trip to explore, photograph and video this remote area of the cave. We will return to complete the video segments needed.

Present: Jessica Burkey, Mark Burkey, Keith Edwards and Brendan Marris

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