Saturday 22 February 2014

Mud Mud & More Mud In Nettle Pot

Having heard tales from Andy and Wal of the tight vertical squeezes Nettle Pot had to offer, when Wal suggested a trip one night at the club I, of course, signed myself and Jess up straight away!
Unfortunately on the day Wal wasn’t feeling well so then there were 3.

We made good time and arrived at around 10am to find 3 cars already parked. Andy was confident that people hardly ever go to Nettle and anyone here would be doing Oxlow or Maskhill. We were half changed when another car pulled up and a women jumped out exclaiming that as there were half naked people by the side of the road she must be in the right place! Turned out she wasn’t a swinger after all and was in fact waiting on yet another party to arrive for Oxlow.
As we finished changing a further 2 cars arrived and some lads jumped out asking if anyone was going to Nettle…. “Yes!”, Andy gruffed and soon packed them on their way sending them off to Giants :)

After trudging up the hill past the entrance to Oxlow we went through the gate and spent 15 minutes looking for the entrance before discovering we had walked straight past it.
Andy rigged and was soon sliding down the narrows in his loveable vocal caving style. I went next and was glad to find them more awkward than tight, especially with Jess's rather splendid idea of extending the stop on a sling from the D ring to hang above us rather than at waist height. 
Reaching the bottom of Bottle Pitch Andy declared he had a splitting headache and that he hadn’t wanted to let us know until he’d got us in the cave. After making sure he had a key and knew where the first aid kit was in the van for tablets he headed out and we headed off down The Flats …..and then there were 2. 
Reaching the levitation pitch at the end of the Flats we found this already rigged, but on inspection of the rope there was a cut in the sheath so we rigged our own and continued down. The traverse over Suicide Pot was also pre-rigged, but proved to be in good condition. Upon reaching the pull through we discovered there was no pull through cord and ropes were already in situ. As this was only a 5m pitch I tentatively went up to check the rigging and found it to be in decent condition for Jess to join me. The 2nd pull through also turned out to be rigged so again I went up first to check with jess following. 
After a half an hour or exploring the very muddy and wet Far Flats, and not finding anything that could be described as a tight squeeze, we decided we had better head back to Andy. Reaching the head of the 30ft pitch it turned out that to aid her in her prussic up the rope Jess had decided it would be a good idea to tie off the tail of the rope to one of the pull through bolts. Unfortunately in doing this she had made the rope so taught there was no way of threading a stop. The only way down would be to down prussic the muddy rope. 
The exit through the Narrows proved awkward whilst hauling the heavy rope bag beneath me, then to top off Jess couldn’t undo a Krab and I had to do the Narrows again to de-rig!
Reaching the van Andy had a good laugh at the amount of mud we were caked in and upon examination of the guide book we found, although the rigging guide makes no mention of it, we in fact needed to find a 12m pitch down at the end of the Far Flats to find Freeze Squeeze and the way to Derbyshire Hall. Oh well a good excuse for a return visit! :)
Mark entering the 'Narrows'
Jess admiring formations in the 'Far Flats'

Jess sporting a rather fetching mud beard ;)
Present Andy Grimes, Jess Burkey & Mark Burkey

Sunday 16 February 2014

A Musical Introduction to Caving

After  a long trip in Ogof Draenen on the Saturday I think it's fair to say we were all suffering a little from lack of sleep for our Sunday trip in Agen Allwedd for Melissa's introduction to the motley Dudley crew and Caving in general.

Keith, Brendan, Jess and myself managed to drag ourselves to Abergavenny to meet with Melissa and start the day proper with the obligatory Luigi breakfast, whilst Chloe and Loz had a little extra bunk time back at 'White Walls'.

We gave Melissa a decent introduction to procrastination both at Luigi's and back at the Caving hut before finally deciding we could put it off no longer and we'd have to venture underground.
Unfortunately Keith had to be back early and with all the tea drinking time was already getting on, so it was decided that he and Brendan would walk us to the cave to wave us off whilst the rest of us would see if we could find our way through to the 'Music Hall'

Melissa seemed to enjoying the entrance series with it's many crawls, climbs and rift passage and had no trouble with any of these. We were soon through the boulder choke and making our way down the impressive main passage.
Brendan had advised making note of where we exit the choke for the return, so after taking a moment to catch our breath we continued on to our main objective.
Reaching 'The Music Hall' we again took a quick break before having a poke around the the 'Cliffs of Dover' and heading back via diversions to take in the Southern and Main Stream Ways.

Reaching the slope up to the Boulder Choke, thinking it would be fun to let Melissa guide us out,  I quickly realised I hadn't paid quite as much attention as I'd thought and we were soon hitting dead ends causing me to retrace our steps to the drop down I'd missed the first time.
Fortunately this was the only error and we were soon completing the entrance series back out in to a bright, but chilly afternoon.

We finished the day with Myself, Chloe, Loz and Melissa having a quick run through Eglwys Faen to exit via the Waterfall whilst Jess headed back to White Walls to get the kettle on.

Melissa seemed to particularly enjoy the flat out crawl in water to exit, exclaiming 'Holy Bum F**K' as she entered the icy water…up to this point I'd thought her such a polite lady…..still she should fit in a treat at Dudley :)

Present: Melissa, Laura Appleby, Chloe Burney, Jess Burkey & Mark Burkey

Saturday 15 February 2014

Coldfinger? Cold everything in Ogof Draenen!

Our club weekend started with……yep you guessed it, a fine breakfast at Luiggi’s where Brendan, Keith, myself, Jess, Chloe and Loz met up before heading off for the Ogof Draenen car park.

For those that don’t know my first trip in to Draenen lasted only about 20min’s as I was turned around at the awkward rift in the entrance series and so began my obsessive year of dieting!

The flat out entrance crawl, squeezes down body size holes in water and scaffold choke were all as much fun as I remembered, then came the awkward rift……I have to say I don’t know if it is that I am somewhat more experienced or the 3 stone less of belly that made the difference, but I slid through and hardly touched the sides. As it turned out that was a mistake that would cost me the next 11 hrs of my life ;)

That first time I hadn’t made it through Brendan had been on a mission to find a formation called ‘Coldfinger’, an unusual blue stalactite deep within the cave, as fate may have it this was also the objective of that days trip.
Our route took us through Carpet crawl, white arch passage, Lamb and Fox chamber, up to Indiana Highway, along Megadrive, the Nunnery (our first glimpse of something other than muddy boulders for some time) through the chapel choke and then dropped down in to the Wyvern series and on to Wyvern Hall. From here we went in to a Labyrinth of rift passages to finally emerge in Ponderosa before heading back through some flat out crawls to ‘The Blue Room.’ 
Here Brendan, Chloe, Jess and Loz paused to take some photographs of the unusual blue formations whilst Keith and I went off in search of the elusive Coldfinger formations. Unfortunately after a half an hour of searching we still hadn't managed to hunt it down! Defeated we headed back to the group down the unstable slope, almost taking down a large boulder on our way. By now we were several hours in to the trip so it was decided we should begin the long slog out. 
Brendan had navigated brilliantly in to the system and as we made our way out we each seemed to recall a different part of the passage and amazingly we again navigated our way without issue.  
After 12 hours of caving we finally made our way out through the frigid water and mud of the entrance series to a cold and frosty night sky. 
It was midnight before we made our weary way to White walls and 2 am by the time everyone was fed, watered and ready for bed. 

A great club trip only marred by the fact I didn’t manage to find my objective.  So who is up for round two of finding that elusive Coldfinger ;) ?!?!

Pictures by Brendan Marris

Present: Brendan Marris, Keith Edwards, Chloe Burney, Laura Appleby, Jess Burkey and Mark Burkey

Sunday 2 February 2014

Maskhill/Oxlow Exchange for a Major Miner!

After receiving a request from Andy Kempster for an SRT trip for his first outing with Dudley, and having found out Alum Pot was his first SRT outing, we realised we’d need something a little tastier than a normal novice trip for him. Carl, Grant and Chloe had also expressed an interest so as there would be sufficient bodies available a Maskhill/Oxlow exchange was decided upon.
Jess and I picked up Chloe on the way and met up with Andy, Carl and Grant at 9am (Carl would like a special shout out to point out they were actually 15 minutes early!)
Carl and Grant were to rig Oxlow whilst Andy, Jess Chloe and I would go in to Maskhill. As we anticipated taking longer going in Maskhill it was decided that we would set off ahead of the lads to give us a head start.
Although the weather was far kinder than our recent trips to these mines I decided to head up the hill and get the entrance pitches rigged whilst the others finished changing so there wouldn’t be too much standing around in the cold. Everyone made short work of the pitches and within a couple of hours we were heading through to the West Chamber to meet up with the lads. Unfortunately the lads had given us a bit more of a head start than I’d anticipated and we had an hour wait for them to join us.
United we set the pull through to Pilgrim’s way so I could take another look at the route to the Chamber of Horrors. Grant elected to take a break whilst we went to explore. The crawls went on quite a bit longer than I’d remembered and it was 20 minutes before we reached the flat out crawls in a very cold stream way.  Carl decided to head back to keep Grant company (probably the most intelligent of us). I headed in first and was soon at the tight s-bend. This time with helmet off I managed to get my chest around the corner only to find the passage continue to tighten. Worried that I wouldn’t be able to reverse if I got too stuck, Chloe volunteered to lead the way (well maybe ‘volunteer’ is a bit strong ;) To avoid drowning she went through on her back, but finding her nose was touching the rock roof, she too was a little nervous of getting stuck with her legs contorted around the corner. With no one smaller to send in to see if it would be do-able, or dig-able we headed back to continue the trip.
We swiftly rigged the Waterfall Chamber. Andy and myself then descended Pool Chamber before, very cold and wet, we began the long climb out.
Andy, Jess and Chloe continued with the exchange while, to help with the de-rig, I exited out Maskhill with Grant and Carl.
Grant wasn’t feeling too good on the way out, so Carl and I were left to haul out the heavy rope bags between the two of us. Even so we still managed to exit before the other group and managed to call Mr Grimes (our call out) with only minutes to spare.  Half an hour later and the other team joined us. The Oxlow pitches had proven somewhat wetter than usual, and everyone was glad to get warm and dry.
Andy had no problems with this big exchange trip, other than the fact Jess had decided to tie on a bag to his rope before he exited the head of a pitch and nearly pulled him off! Even so he seemed very happy with the trip and even eager to join us on a future outing…..the crazy fool!
Andy on the abseil traverse above Waterfall Chamber

Present: Grant Wilkes, Carl Knot, Chloe Burney, Jess Burkey, Mark Burkey and Andy Kempster