Sunday 27 April 2014

Swildon's Hole Short Round Trip

We decided to start a little later than usual and arranged to meet up at half past ten at Priddy Green with Mel, Chloe travelling down with myself and Jess.
With rain forecast Friday, Saturday and Sunday we were unsure if the Swildon's round trip was the best idea, but upon arriving at the green I was pretty sure the numerous minibuses and cars meant that Swildon's would probably be fine after all.
We begun gathering our kit when Mel let out an expletive as she realised she had neglected to pack her wellies!
As Mel raced off to see if she could grab some from Wells, Chloe, Jess and Myself retreated from the rain to enjoy some of Chloe's excellent home baked almond slices.
An hour later Mel arrived back with a pair of boots she had managed to borrow from Mr Sparrow at caveclimb.
Jess led us in via the dry route to the head of the 20ft pot where a ladder was already in place. There were hordes of other parties on their way out and it took some time before and we were making our way over Barne's Loop and up at Tratman's Temple.
We met a couple of cavers on our way who told us the ducks were quite high and they had needed to spend some time bailing to get through.
After a slight navigational blip which saw me going needlessly through a very muddy duck to a dig face, we were back en route and at the greasy chimney before we knew it where everyone shot up the obstacle on first attempt! 

Chloe recognised the junction on to the rift over Blue Pencil Passage, which I wanted to check I could find my way through before we continued on to the first of the double troubles.

I could see the girls weren't looking too eager as they peered at the frigid duck which had only a few inches of air space. Chloe and Jess began to take a look at the syphon system, but as I had only done these last year I managed to convince them there was plenty of space to navigate through. 
I went first to demonstrate. The water was indeed as cold as it looked and was well over your ears as you tilted your head back around the various obstacles before emerging the other side. 
Jess followed but in her rush decided to water board herself as she rushed through. 
After promising Mel and Chloe that as long as they took their time and didn't rush the same fate wouldn't become them, they both came through without any problems. After this the rest of the troubles had far more airspace and posed no issues. 

We were soon at the unnamed squeeze which I had run Mel through the previous week. Now I'm not sure if it is all the almond slices or the wetsuit fabric under my Meander suit, but half way through I found my suit just would not slide any further. I wasn't exactly stuck as there was plenty of breathing room, but I wasn't going anywhere either and had to get Chloe and Jess to tug on my wellies and pull me back out! Deciding that it was something to do with the wetsuit and Meander I pulled the top of my over suit down to my waist and squeezed through to take a couple of pic's from the other side before everyone joined me for the last of the troubles. 

Mel recognised the drop down to The Landing and we were soon diving through Sump 1 to make our way out. 

Between the 3 girls they had managed to navigate the whole round trip which meant I had plenty of time to play with my camera :)

All that was left was to gobble up a few more almond slices and for Mel to return her wellies!

Mel on the ladder pitch
Mel traversing the 2nd of the double pots
Chloe in Barnes' Loop
Chloe coming through the squeeze
Chloe slides down at The Landing

Present: Chloe Burney, Mel Bell, Jess Burkey & Mark Burkey

Sunday 20 April 2014

Long Walk to Ogof Ap Robert

It has been some time since our last visit to this cave, and during the trip it became apparent that the memory had faded somewhat. We set off on our walk from Trefil with an audience of about 1,000 orienteers who were partaking in an Easter event. We headed up the hill in a cool breeze and soon disappeared into low cloud. With the aid of GPS we were soon heading into the shakehole containing the cave and out of the cold wind. The entrance series was pretty much as I had remembered it, and soon we were in Toad Hall, where Jess and I spent some time taking photos while Mark went off to explore the passages radiating off the Chamber. We then regrouped and did a circuit of the Loop Route together before we headed into the crawl through the Fifth Boulder Choke under the floor of the chamber. Beyond this choke the cave changes character and all the passages have dried mud deposits, I had blocked most of this out from my previous visit and all was a surprise to me. We headed first to the southeast end of the cave and followed the Burma Road to end in the Land of Arawn, with its glutinous mud covering. We then headed back and headed up the northwest end of the system to the Land of Hafgan. Mark and Jess climbed up into a muddy tube to make their way to Hafgan, and Mark then returned to insist that I come through to take photos of the spectacular chamber. I fell for it hook line and sinker and soon I was looking down onto yet more mud covered boulders. On our return I commented to Mark that the joke was on him, as he had now travelled the muddy tube twice in his effort to dupe me. We finally headed through the Sixth and Seventh chokes to reach the pitch down into the Hans Bach stream. We were now heading out of time and headed back home.

Toad Hall - Ogof Ap Robert
Jessica in Toad Hall - Ogof Ap Robert

Toad Hall - Ogof Ap Robert
Jessica in Toad Hall - Ogof Ap Robert

Burma Road - Ogof Ap Robert
Jessica in the Burma Road - Ogof Ap Robert

Beyond the Fifth Choke - Ogof Ap Robert
Jessica Beyond the Fifth Choke - Ogof Ap Robert

Taking a quick detour to look at Pwll Pirs on our return journey we headed back to the van in light rain. We may return some time to explore below the ladder pitch and take photos in the Loop Route above Toad Hall.

Present : Mark Burkey, Jess Burkey and Brendan Marris

Saturday 19 April 2014

Three Go Wild In Ogof Ffynnon Ddu

The plan for the day was to visit the Waterfall Series in OFD1, but as we thought that this might not fill the day we also decided to visit the Railton-Wild Series on the way. We underestimated the extent of both areas and so we will have to revisit the Waterfall Series on a following occasion. We entered the cave and followed a very low streamway to the point where the stream issues from a sump. Just before the sump is a ramp up a phreatic passage in the left hand wall (The Slide), where we climbed up into the start of the series. We first headed left via Gour Passage and had a look at several of the windows that overlook Pots 3 and 4 the streamway down below, before following the passage in the giant loop that it forms. We stopped off on the way to have a look at Bailit Way and then photographed the fine passage and formations that are found on the way around. We explored the side passages including Rodent Run, and passages leading off by Carrot Junction and also had a look at the impressively high Bat Aven, which Mark may return to have a further look at. We ended at the balconies overlooking the passage opposite Low's Climb, before we returned to the streamway and to make our way to the next destination - The Waterfall Series.

Railton-Wild Series - OFD1
Jessica in the Railton-Wild Series - OFD1

Railton-Wild Series - OFD1
Jessica in the Railton-Wild Series - OFD1

Railton-Wild Series - OFD1
Jessica in the Railton-Wild Series - OFD1

Railton-Wild Series - OFD1
Jessica in the Railton-Wild Series - OFD1

Railton-Wild Series - OFD1
Jessica in the Railton-Wild Series - OFD1

We then moved on to the Waterfall Series where Mark took up the photography, and whose photos will no doubt appear in a following post.

Present : Mark Burkey, Jess Burkey and Brendan Marris

…...The Adventure Continued Wild, Waterfalls, and Tigers!

After spending some fun filled hours exploring every inch of the Railton-Wild Series we moved on to our main objective the Waterfall Series. Time wasn't on our side so rather than try to fully explore all the passages it was decided we would concentrate on Crystal Pool Chamber and The Annex.

Having spoken to a few people back at the club we were aware of two possible routes in to the Annex; one involves a tight downward tube with a squeeze and contortion 4 meters in, the other an 8m ladder pitch. Not knowing exactly how to access the pitch head, and as the way on to Crystal pool chamber involves an awkward climb up a rift which tightens at the top, we decided to leave the ladder at a junction we thought would lead to the pitch head and go and take a look at the Crystal Pool and the squeeze first.

No-one had any problems with the rift and traverse to the chamber and Brendan and I were soon trying to get a shot of the beautiful crystal pool whilst Jess had a squirrel around.
Re-grouping Myself, Brendan and Jess all took a look at the tight tube sloping downward and all opted to go feet first rather than fully commit. We all found the awkward squeeze impossible to do feet first as our suits were gathering around our arm pits and contortion was near impossible to navigate without being able to see the route. None of us were feeling brave enough to commit to trying it head first as backing out would be again almost impossible if we couldn't get through, so we decided to explore the passageways off the chamber and then use the ladder to access the Annex instead.

During our exploration Jess found the alternative ladder pitch which is actually accessed via a climb up to a passage off Crystal Pool chamber itself, as we had left the ladder some way back and were quickly running short on time, the Annex would have to wait for another day.
We popped our heads in to Tiger Aven where some unusual striped white and yellow straws give the area it's name and grabbed a couple of pictures as we made our way out. Having taken the dry traverse route on the way in, we opted for a thorough soaking through the waterfall on exit ;)

An enjoyable amble around bits of the system that were new to us and I look forward to returning to finish off the Waterfall Series soon!

Jess in the passage way to Gothic Sump
Jess in The Railton-Wild Series
Unusual scalloped roof passage on the way to Crystal Pool Chamber
Jess on the traverse up to Crystal Pool Chamber
The Crystal Pool

Present: Brendan Marris, Mark Burkey & Jess Burkey

Saturday 12 April 2014

OFD 1.5 with a little bit of Deja Vue

Following a visit earlier in the year we planned our return to OFD 1.5 so that we could visit the Boulder Bridge and the passages below and take photos and video during our visit. We pooled lighting sources for the video and with only three of us we headed to SWCC on Saturday morning for our trip. On arriving at Penwyllt we bumped into Clive and Steve from Cave & Crag, and after some light persuasion they were enticed into joining us. Heading into the cave we had a little faffing with the lock that was later taken back up to the club to fix and were soon at the climb up to OFD 1.5 where we set up the lighting for the first of many video sequences. Selecting each of the most photogenic sections of passages and location on our route, we set up lighting panels and took sequences of video. While we videoed, Clive and Steve took still photos. We moved further and further into 1.5 until the Knackeraker pitch was rigged for Keith and Mark to descend. Video was taken in the lower passage and then the struggle back up the pitch was made. At this point Clive and Steve rejoined us, so all moved off to find the Boulder Bridge and rig the pitch down into the passage below. Video and stills were taken in the lower passage and Falcon Chamber, and a little while was taken trying to find a route into the choke in the lower end of the passage. We then headed up the passage to Falcon Chamber where some time was taken over stills and video with time running out we headed up the pitch and back to the squeezes and the other route into OFD 1.5 where we made the decision to return the following day to complete the video and for Brendan to bring in his camera to photograph the chambers and passage below the Boulder Bridge. Some tackle was stashed and we headed out the cave a little lighter than when we came in.

Below the Boulder Bridge - OFD 1.5
Mark Burkey below the Boulder Bridge - OFD 1.5

Below the Boulder Bridge - OFD 1.5
Rich Gibbons below the Boulder Bridge - OFD 1.5

Falcon Chamber - OFD 1.5
Rich Gibbons in Falcon Chamber - OFD 1.5

Large passage - OFD 1.5
Mel Bell in the largest passage - OFD 1.5

Towards Hush Sump OFD1
Mel Bell in the approach to Hush Sump

Mel and Rich arrived right on cue on Sunday morning and so we headed into the cave a little earlier than the previous day. The trip was repeated this time picking the locations where we needed more people and light than we had on the previous day. This time we ignored Knackeracker and went direct to the Boulder Bridge and dropped down to the passages below. Some time was spent here again taking video and stills before we returned via the squeezes.

The Video

Present Saturday : Mark Burkey, Keith Edwards, Brendan Marris with guest appearances by Clive Bennett and Steven Foley

Present Sunday : Mark Burkey, Keith Edwards, Brendan Marris with special guest appearances by Rich Gibbons and Mel Bell

Sunday 6 April 2014

Sploshing around Swildon's Hole

Again splitting in to two teams for Sundays adventures I led Mel, Rich, Tony and Rob for a jaunt in to Swildon’s Hole for a trip to Sump 2, whilst the others headed to Burrington Combe to have a play.

There were a large number of cavers and adventure groups in the upper part of the system so we headed in via the wet route and were all quickly sploshing our way through to the head of the Twenty Foot Pot.
A ladder was already rigged so we un-bagged our kit and left it on a shelf in-case the other party exited before us. 
Whilst I belayed the others down another group arrived and begun chatting with Rob. I heard them ask where we were from and when Rob replied Dudley the other chap grinned and said “Ah the video guys”, he looked over at me and said I thought I recognised you.” Rob just looked blankly at me and then made his way down the pitch.
On we went around the Double Pots, well aside from Rich who seemed to want to test the depth of the 2nd one ;)
I pointed out the climb up at Barnes’ loop and said we’d descent via the rift and come back over the top. Continuing I pointed out Tratman’s and on to Sump 1.
We arrived just as another group were coming through.
“Excuse me, are you Mark the Caver from the Video’s?” a lady asked. We then went on to discuss how tight Darren Cilau was and if the now famous Caving girdle was real…fame at last…. shame it’s for cross-dressing!
After this exchange I explained about the ‘Tight Cave Large Caver Video Series” to the others and that it was because of Mr Edwards Video’s that I was being recognised by these complete strangers.

So now it was time for the sump. I explained the procedure and then dove through to take some shots of the others. 
Again everyone did admirably with only the odd squeak & squeal ;)
After the usual giggle at the Wookey Hole sign we went off to take a look at Sump 2, then headed up the Landing to see if we could find the unnamed squeeze. After heading off in completely the wrong direction I eventually got us on route and was soon ducking through the last of the troubles to the ‘Not Birthday Squeeze.’
A few of us had a play slipping through the smooth calcite before reversing our route through sump 1 and heading back out. This time I got Rob to lead and he had no trouble till he continued in to the tight rift, missing the climb up at what used to be the old Forty Foot Pot. 
To round off we all exited out of the tree roots before having a wash off in the stream.
Mel in Sump 1

Rich in Sump 1

Rob in Sump 1

Tony in Sump 1

Present: Mell Bell, Tony Ferrun, Rob Campbell, Rich Gibbons & Mark Burkey

Saturday 5 April 2014

Hanging around and chillin out in Longwood Swallet

Jess and I were awoken by a gentle rocking of our van…..Oh crap is it an earthquake, perhaps fracking had begun in the Mendips…….nope we had overslept and Brendan was eager for breakfast so was shoulder barging the van in an effort to wake us!
As it turned out we still managed to get everything cooked and served up before everyone arrived.
After quite a bit of faffing we had finally managed to sort all the permits and grab a couple of keys. Splitting in to two teams we headed off. The other group were off to GB whilst Brendan, myself, Mel, Carl, Tony and Rob headed off to Longwood Swallet.
After a slight smirk when the others got their kit out of the car and asked where they changed we kitted up at the side of the road and followed the stream down to the entrance. Brendan led with Mel diving in behind, but shortly Mel popped back out as another group were exiting and there was not enough room in the entrance rift for people to pass.
The guys exiting looked soaked to the skin and they explained that the water had been diverted after the floods in Cheddar and that August was now taking all the stream and it was a little more than sporting via that route at the moment.
After thanking them we made our way in through the 12m entrance chimney to a narrow rift. At the letter box squeeze Rob hadn’t positioned himself very well and struggled a little to push through, first removing his helmet, then his belt, then a drink and then a single glove?!?!?
Being a larger caver myself I know exactly what its like to be confronted by chest crushing rock and I have to say Rob did admirably, there wasn’t a single lip quiver or whimper to be seen or heard.
Next Brendan rigged the ladder and line from a stal for the awkward 5m pitch and everyone made short work of the awkward take off before climbing down the second climb to Water Chamber. Here we popped for a look at the start of August Hole and there was indeed a roar of water hurtling down the passageway. Continuing on we headed along a rift through an awkward chimney down to emerge on a balcony overlooking Great Chamber. At this point we decided a hand line may be in order so I popped back to the ladder and grabbed our belay line. Mel rigged this and again we were soon all down safely and hunting for the way on. Brendan and Carl led us through Wet Way, but found the passage choked with too tight rifts, we then began hunting around until Brendan and I found Christmas Crawl and the other end of August Hole. There was a single ‘P’ bolt in place and Brendan was pretty sure this was a climb down to continue to the Stream way, so I popped back for the hand line once more whilst Brendan gathered the others. Putting an Italian Hitch through my belt Krab I descended the climb through a torrent of water to find I couldn’t find any further hand or foot holds. No problem, I’d just AB’ in using my Italian Hitch and spot people down once I could see the holds I’d missed because of the waterfall I’d been descending through. The only problem was that upon reaching the lower ledge I still couldn’t see any holds. Communication was difficult because of the fast flowing waterfall, but I eventually managed to convey to Brendan that I didn’t think this was actually free climbable and was there another way out? Unfortunately Brendan wasn’t sure, he was last in Longwood 9 years ago and his memory of the system at this point was failing him…. well he is knocking on a bit now!
Reversing the Italian Hitch I began to belay myself with one hand and try climbing out with the other. I had climbed as far as I could and the next move would be somewhat dynamic, so I decided to tie off my Italian hitch just in case. 123…. lunge, miss, drop in to the main flow of the waterfall. I yanked the knot free to abseil out of the water but nothing happened. The water was fierce and my hands were getting numb quickly, the freezing flow was everywhere and I couldn’t open my eyes. I began to pendulum myself out of the water and kick off of the rock till I could look down and see; because I was using an oval krab rather than a pear shaped one, the Italian Hitch had caught and not flipped to allow descent. Rectifying this I abseiled down and out of the water, but this had given me quite a ‘moment’.
When I looked up I saw that Brendan had the same experience watching me from above.
He called down to ask if he should go back for the ladder and I nodded.
Looking at the impossible climb the spray of water was chilling me and I could see how you can loose strength quickly in these conditions.  Shouting for Rob to come to the head of the climb I had an idea. I again climbed as high as I could, but this time passed the tail of the rope to Rob and told him to take in as I climbed and that he could lower me down if something went wrong.
Again I got to the dynamic move, this time having two hands I managed to lunge across, slip, recover and get up on to the ledge with Rob.
Brendan meanwhile had met another party coming in and was on his way with their ladder to assist me and was quite relieved when he saw I was already out and ok.
It was at this point we discovered what we had thought was a free climb with hand line was actually the 5m Swing Pitch to the stream way!
The other group rigged their ladder to continue to the steam way and offered us the use of it but they were not using a lifeline and we figured it would take quite some time to set up and lifeline a group of our size and so the decision was made to saunter back out and see how the other team had faired under the guidance of Becca.
No-one had any troubles with the awkward passageways and squeezes on the way back up and we were soon dry, sipping tea and eating cake awaiting the others return :)

Main Chamber - Longwood Swallet
Main Chamber - Longwood Swallet

Present: Mark Burkey, Brendan Marris, Carl Knott, Mel Bell, Tony Ferrun and Rob Campbell