Sunday 31 August 2014

Swinging in Pembrokeshire, A day at the seaside but still no ice-cream!!!

Saturday saw Jess and I having a little play in OFD Top to try out my new toys and provide a stop over a little closer for our planned outing on the west coastline on Sunday.
Brendan and Keith also decided this would be a good plan and joined us Saturday night at the SWCC.
As many know Jess and I do like a lie in when we do our camping trips, but this time I was just too excited to stay in bed later than 7.30am. I have been lucky to tick off many of my bucket list trips of late and Sunday's trip has been at the top for some time.
I have been pestering Keith and Brendan for a trip to Ogof Gofan for over a year and my constant nagging finally paid off. We made an early start from the SWCC at 8am and didn't reach our breakfast stop at St Clears till gone 9am. The only option open to us for our traditional start to a caving trip was a Little Chef which had just had a coach party descend on them.
With all our delays it was near midday before we found ourselves changing on the MOD live fire range. The tranquil coastline setting was almost unspoilt aside from the numerous warning signs and the helicopter gunship circling above us. Undaunted we made our way to the cliff face above the entrance to Ogof Gofan.
We took no chances with the rigging, using two natural anchors as well as the two rusted stakes and several rope protectors over the sharp rock. The abseil is only short but feels quite exposed as the waves crash in to the cliff face below.
I waited at the entrance to take a couple of shots whilst Jess went off to begin exploring.  Once Keith and Brendan had joined me we all begun thrutching through the short crawls to join Jess at the 2nd Window. From here again we crawled and squeezed up through the chambers until we popped through in to the impressive 5th Chamber. This has a very continental feel to the formations and I took a good while taking pictures here.
From the 5th Chamber we climbed up and squeezed through to the 6th Chamber. Keith wormed his way down an inviting body sized hole in to a boulder choke only to find the ceiling above him looking rather delicate, so carefully he made his way back to us.
Again we explored, filmed and photographed the final chamber of this short but beautiful cave.
Finally it was time to make our way back. We were soon back at the entrance pitch and each made our way carefully back to the surface. Walking back to the car park we all agreed it had been an excellent days caving and to top it off there was even an ice-cream van waiting for least until we reached the gate, at which point he decided to drive off........Typical!

The video from our day out at the seaside

(Saturday) Jess in Big Chamber Near The Entrance OFD II. Photo Mark Burkey
Keith on the entrance pitch. Photo Mark Burkey
Second Window - Ogof Gofan
Mark admires the view from the second window of Ogof Gofan. Photo Brendan Marris
Jess in the 5th Chamber. Photo Mark Burkey
Jess in the 5th Chamber. Photo Mark Burkey
Jess in the 5th chamber. Photo Mark Burkey
Present: Jess Burkey, Brendan Marris, Keith Edwards & Mark Burkey

Monday 25 August 2014

North Wales Weekend - Dudley goes 'Carry on Camping' - Day 3, ODB

Well we are a caving club after all and it can't all be fun and merriment, so day 3 was our proper caving trip into ODB with a local leader, Marc.
After the tents were down and the obligatory breakfast had been consumed, Mark, I, Chloe and Brendan met up with Keith, who had driven up for the day, and we descended on the quarry with Marc and his helper Mark. (Chloe was chuffed to discover that if she ran into difficulties there'd likely be a Mark close to hand.)
ODB starts off as a mine but soon breaks into natural cave, with tight rifts, huge chambers, very pretty formations, flat out crawls and climbs.
Marc took us through the impressively dug connection into Llyn Du 2, which the North Wales members dug by hand over many months. The sump was not open enough to go through, which Keith was relieved about, so Chloe insisted on getting soaked through exploring a little streamway instead, taking the 3 Marks with her.
Mark had been a little nervous about getting through the Lobster Pot choke  as he had got stuck there as a novice caver, but to Keith's disappointment he slipped through easily.
A great caving trip was rounded off with a drink at the pub and promises of reciprocal trips for Marc and Mark.

Present: Jess B., Mark B., Brendan M., Chloe B., Keith E.

Sunday 24 August 2014

North Wales Weekend - Dudley goes 'Carry on Camping' , Day 2 - Cwmorthin, Zip Wires and Trampolines

Having decided we were all going to leave camp at 9am and go for breakfast, Mark and I were rudely awakened by thumping on the van at quarter past 9.
A proper caving breakfast having been consumed, the majority of the group set off to meet Carl and his girlfriend Abby, who had offered to lead a trip into Cwmorthin.
Carl led the group on a really enjoyable round trip with lots of  ladders and traverses and impressive chambers, while Amy, Daniel and I went to Llechwydd Slate Caverns to throw ourselves down the zip wires there, which was great fun!
Once the others arrived, with glowing reports of Carl's trip, it was time to Bounce Below - 3 levels of trampolines with slides and climbs, inside the mountain itself. For an hour we all became 6 years old again, and emerged hot and sweaty and ready for a nice pub meal in Betys y Coed.
This was followed by an evening looking out at the campfire and the rain, from the shelter of the mess tent, where Loz proudly displayed her leopard print legs covered in 'caving' bruises from Crib Goch, and we told each other scary caving stories till bedtime.

Cwmorthin Slate Quarry
Chloe climbing in Cwmorthin

Cwmorthin Slate Quarry
Chloe climbing in Cwmorthin

Cwmorthin Slate Quarry
Matthew in Cwmorthin

Cwmorthin Slate Quarry
Matthew jumping down in Cwmorthin

Present: Jess B., Mark. B., Chloe B., Brendan M., Matt M., Amy S., Daniel, Laura A., Richard, Carl K., Abbey.

Saturday 23 August 2014

North Wales Weekend - Dudley goes 'Carry on Camping' - Day 1, Snowden

After a month of multiple emailings in which every possible permutation of events had been covered in minute detail, including contingency plans,  I got home from work on Friday to a flurry of emails and texts asking when, where, how, and if.
Such a simple plan - drive to North Wales,  and meet up at the camp site,  what could possibly go wrong?
We arrived at the camp site at 10.30pm. It was pitch dark, the site was packed, and we had no phone signal. Enquiries at the gate about dodgy looking people from Dudley Caving Club drew a blank.
After driving round a bit looking for the others we gave up and found a parking space. Suddenly Amy pulled up next to us, followed by Brendan, followed by Chloe! The only one we mislaid was Matt, who we found asleep in his car next morning.
After pitching the tents and a cuppa in the mess tent lent by Ian, we retired to bed,  Mark and I having to slum it in our 4-poster-bedded van.
Next morning Loz and her better half joined us and we all set off to walk from the site up to the summit of Snowden. Half an hour from camp the rain started. We also discovered our route took us across several streams, so by the time we arrived at the Pen Y Pass cafe we were all slightly moist, and Amy was saying "I'd rather have paid the £10 parking fee and driven up!!" Not as much as she wished she had later though...
We didn't actually leave the cafe till about 1pm, suitably fortified, and the rain held off for the rest of the day, which was helpful. We set off up the PYG track and then some of us split off to climb over Crib Goch. Loz and Chloe particularly enjoyed the scramble up and over the knife edge arete - Loz enjoying it so much she was fairly hugging the rock in places - and we arrived at the summit to find Brendan and the others turning a fetching shade of blue in the minus temperatures.
Fortified again in the cafe we set off down the Watkins path towards the campsite,  with promises of on-site pizzas and drinks around the campfire. It was actually quite a long way back to camp. A really, really long way. Chloe, Matt, Loz and Richard sped on ahead, and the rest of us weren't far behind, until a few things happened -
a) the soles of Daniels boots, which had been loose all day, finally turned into flip flops and had to be bound up with tape and bits of cord.
b) it started getting dark
c) we took a short cut back to the camp.
We really don't need to go into details of the muddy track that went on deeper and deeper into the woods, not enough torches, Mark slipping down a bank...suffice to say that by the time we reached the campsite there were no pizzas and the others had been combing the countryside for us! Anyhow, we just managed to catch a Balti house in Llanberis before it shut and finally dropped into bed about 1am.

Present: Jess B., Mark B., Brendan M., Chloe B., Amy S., Daniel, Laura A., Richard, Matt M.

Saturday 16 August 2014

Swamped with helictites in Pendulum Passage

When I first joined the club I listened with envy as Keith and Brendan recounted a trip they had taken to a little visited area of a cave which had stunning helictite formations. It was a trip that I've had at the back of my mind ever since.

Chloe met at ours at half seven on Saturday morning and after a straight forward run we were kitted up and heading for the cave by10:30am.

our first objective was a pitch at the end of Swamp Creek which I had not done before. We took the tourist route down Salubrious past the Trident and Judge formations and were soon crab walking down the Swamp Creek Stream.  A short traverse is rigged to the head of the pitch where I descended through the waterfall 40m to the main stream way below. Chloe and Jess followed issuing squeals as the frigid water went down the necks of their suits as they descended.
At the bottom we ditched the SRT kit and headed up stream to the squeeze up through the boulders and in to Pendulum passage.
The route was easy going with the exception of an awkward loose climb down which we had taken a ladder to assist with and my two models were soon shivering for the camera in front of the beautifully decorated walls of straws and helictites.
After spending a good while taking pictures we begun to retrace our route, again pausing for a couple of photographs in the main stream. We had decided to exit via Maypole inlet and de-rig the pitch from the top rather than ascend through the freezing waterfall.
What I assumed would be a fairly short trip had taken several hours with the photographs and we made our call out of 7pm with a whole minute to spare! :)
Delicate Helictites in Pendulum Passage

Chloe admiring the formations

Jess traversing the steam way near the 2nd oxbow

Present: Jess Burkey, Chloe Burney & Mark Burkey

Sunday 10 August 2014

Successful Routefinding in OFD 2

OFD Top Entrance, Navigation Exercise Sunday 10 August 2014.
Jess had very kindly offered to ride shotgun for me on this navigation exercise and in doing so sacrificed a far more adventurous trip with Mark and Brendan & Carl, feigning 'It wasn't her favourite cave'Mark had provided a survey of the system from Top Entrance and highlighted a suitable route for me to follow. After the usual breakfast formalities at Luigis we arrived at a near empty SWCC.With the paperwork completed and us changed we set off with key to the entrance, but struggled for a while  with the lock, a goodly dose of WD40 might be efficacious!   Having secured the door from the inside we set off, the first couple of hundred yards or so were fine but l struggled with the scale of the survey, reaching some points sooner than expected and others seemed to take longer than implied. Some of the passages had obviously moved since my last visit and thereby hangs a cautionary tale. Previous trips in here had covered a variety of the popular sights and routes from different directions and it is easy to get them muddled in your mind, fortunately Jess was on hand providing the occasional hint to stop and review the situation.
Undaunted we carried on past the 'Wedding Cake' swerved around the end of 'Gnome Passage' and eventually found the 'Corkscrew' and down to the stream way in 'Salubrious Passage' where we indulged in some 'Traversing'. We turned on this occasion left to visit 'The Trident' and just beyond 'The Judge.' Retracing our steps we again followed the main passage way via 'The Crossroads' & 'Presidents Leap', into the 'Selenite Tunnels' to emerge at 'Shatter Pillar' a most aptly named landmark.Our return was a 'simple' reverse of the route in, simple it may seem but there are lessons to be learned here, main landmarks are helpful but junctions don't look the same in reverse and it pays to study them on the way in looking back as well as forward. Likewise good lamps are essential main beams can pick up the detail but miss the bigger picture, such as the Archway, a real land mark with flood but missable on main.
 We made it back to the entrance with relative ease and the occasional steer from Jess and emerged into brilliant sunshine after 4 hours underground. Having showered and indulged in the compulsory tea/coffee and cakes we observed from inside the cottages the most ferocious hail storm l have ever seen before setting off to meet Mark, Brendan & Carl at Abergavenny.So what was learnt? Well leading a trip is nowhere as easy as it looks, so my Thanks to Jess and maximum respect to her and all the experienced members of D.C.C. who give so much of their time to assist new members in becoming better cavers. There is some reconciliation work to be done with the survey, landmarks and my mental positioning of them and then probably another trip to fix them in my mind.Present Jess Burkey & Ian Millward,          

The Score - Ogof Draenen - The Worm That Turned

Another trip that I last did about ten years ago. It takes about this length of time to forget the really nasty bits of the trip. We met in Luigis to be joined by Ian who was going off with Jess for some navigation practice in OFD Top Entrance, and Carl who would be joining the Draenen trip. After a leisurely breakfast we split up and agree to meet up in Abergavenny at 6pm. The weather is hideous and we change in pouring rain and head down through a rather aqueous entrance series. After signing in a Cairn Chamber we head down Wonderbra to Tea Junction and then along a short distance to enter Back Passage. I had forgotten how bad the crawl is, I should have known that something called Back Passage would be a pain in the arse. The first section is a low crawl over dried mud, the second half becomes completely flat out and you are fighting your way through. For the larger chested of us this was like a continuous squeeze forcing our way over the very grippy floor. The tightest bit was just at the end and Mike was sent on ahead to shout words of encouragement from the other end. Once through we were in a small chamber at the end of Crystal Cruncher passage where some pleasant hand sand knees crawling over dried mud floor took us past walls and ceilings covered in gypsum crystals. In places these had fallen to the floor and covered that too. We were soon in The Score where the passage changes in size to the proportions one generally expects to see in Draenen and we headed to the very end of the passage towards our objective of seeing some impressive formations at the end. We headed down One Night Stand with our secret weapon Mike up front to check out the squeeze that would lead to the final section of passage and our target for the day - The White Wormery formations. Mark and Brendan were a little held up by a squeeze that was not the tight squeeze and so Mike went on a few minutes ahead of the rest of us. He reached the real squeeze and by the time we had caught up with him he was returning to tell us that he could not get through and we would have no chance at all. We made our way out taking some photos and video as we went.

The Score - Ogof Draenen
Carl and Mike in The Score - Ogof Draenen

The Score - Ogof Draenen
Carl and Mike in The Score - Ogof Draenen

The Score - Ogof Draenen
Carl and Mike in The Score - Ogof Draenen

The Score - Ogof Draenen
Carl and Mike in The Score - Ogof Draenen

The Score - Ogof Draenen
Mike in The Score - Ogof Draenen

As we returned to the surface the storm had give way to sunshine, it was a relief to emerge onto Pwll Ddu in such pleasant weather. We headed up the hill to the carpark, by which time a large black cloud had popped up. As we changed, the torrential rain turned to hail, it was just like changing in February. I am sure that the carpark has its own weather system.

Present: Mark Burkey, Carl Knott, Brendan Marris and special guest Mike Green from Gloucester S.S.

Saturday 9 August 2014

A Grand Day Out in Agen Allwedd

Mark was disappointed to miss the Outer Circle trip last week, so his consolation prize was the Grand Circle. We stayed at Whitewalls as Sunday's trip would be in Draenen and met up with Mike Green from Gloucester S.S. who is now also a Chelsea S.S. member.
We arrived at Whitewalls after the obligatory breakfast in Luigis and met up with Mike who had stayed over on the Friday night. After changing we made our way to the cave, making it underground at the leisurely time of 11:30am. It is over ten years since I had last done this trip and we headed off to do the trip anticlockwise to replicate my first trip in the hope I would remember some of it. It appears that some of my memory is still functioning and we made our way through the First and Second chokes, down the Main Streamway. We slipped our way down the streamway for about a kilometre to reach the area of Deep Water and the Narrows. We then arrived at the Third Choke to find the route through a little longer than I remembered it, but presented no problems at all. We then were quickly at the Fourth Choke and climbed up the tight route through boulders cursing the camera boxes. Biza passage I had no memory of apart from I knew it took quite a while last time. I remembered none of it, but we made our way through slowly but without fault. The handline came in useful for the climbs down to the streamway at the end. Fun was had at the first cascade as we all got a little wetter than we had planned here. We slipped our way further downstream, pausing to take photos at the cascades and also some formations on a high level section of passage. Eventually the streamway becomes more phreatic and the floor is covered with silt and gravel, so no more slipping, well almost... We head down past Southern Stream to visit the sump, before we head back to the Southern Stream inlet to begin our long slog out. This was as awkward as I had remembered, but had less crawling, but the stooping and squeezing is quite tiring and we were glad when we emerged into the Main Passage. It was now just a stroll to the entrance series, where we polished off a bottle of pop that we had left in Barons Chamber and made our way out.

Main Streamway - Agen Allwedd
Mel and Jess - Main Streamway - Agen Allwedd

Main Streamway - Agen Allwedd
Mel and Mike - Main Streamway - Agen Allwedd

Above the Main Streamway - Agen Allwedd
Mel viewing formations - Above the Main Streamway - Agen Allwedd

Main Streamway - Agen Allwedd
Jess at a cascade - Main Streamway - Agen Allwedd

Main Streamway - Agen Allwedd
Mel in the Lower Main Streamway - Agen Allwedd

Southern Stream was not as crawly as I had remembered, but sustained stooping makes it very tiring.

Present: Mel Bel, Mark Burkey, Jess Burkey, Brendan Marris and special guest Mike Green from Gloucester S.S.

Saturday 2 August 2014

Deja Vue on the Outer Circle

In March 2005 we had a trip where a member of the party would not fit down a squeeze into Coal Cellar Passage, splitting the party and making an epic trip.
Surely history could not repeat itself?

After walking to the entrance in all our gear in glorious sunshine it was nice to get in the cool shade of the cave, though there was talk of just spending the day sun bathing.
I led through the entrance series to Baron’s Chamber where Brendan took over ...
We head down Main Stream to the 2nd Boulder Choke stopping to do some filming of the where Loz was caught nearly slipping off the step around the corner. We then look at the traverses from Keyhole Chamber and take the alternative route in the stream. We were soon at Northwest Junction and off into Turkey Streamway and began the Outer Circle, pausing for photos in the streamway, and then continued to Turkey Pool for a quick dunking and cries of “joy” at the freezing water, followed by giggling from others until it was our turn!
We continued the Outer Circle via Sand Caverns and Selenite Needle Passage we completed the Inner Circle following Eastern Avenue to the end and back before heading clockwise around the outer route including the Dome of St. Pauls completing the circuit and then heading through to Midsummer Passage and found squeeze down in to Coal Cellar Passage.
Brendan had a play in the squeeze, trying to remember how he’d gotten through previously and produced some interesting noises. I had a go next, with guidance from Brendan on the best angle of attack and shining his Scurion in to the dark space I was lowering myself into. I got though. Rob was next up, helmet and belt were soon off and several attempts at finding optimum angle were made, along with more interesting noises ☺. To add to the challenge of the squeeze Rob started getting cramp in his left leg, but he kept on wriggling and was through, valiant effort! Brendan had another ago but decided he required some ribs removed first.
So 6hrs in we split in to 2 x 2, Brendan and Keith are to head back round the Outer Circle (I reckon Brendan just wanted to do Turkey Pool again ☺), Rob and I are to follow Coal Cellar passage. We agree to meet at the junction with Turkey stream in an 1hr 30mins, expecting Rob and I to get there 1st as we have less distance to cover.
Now this is not how I imagined my 1st experience at leading to pan out! I’m reliably informed by Keith that it’s a “fairly straight forward” route “just follow the most obvious passage” until we get to Turkey Passage. We start to proceed down the boulder riddled small stream way on hands and knees, poor Rob starts suffering with cramp again but he braves it on, fair play.
The way on is not so apparent as we can’t see past the next boulder, still on hands and knees we weave around, under and over small boulders, dropping in and out the water. Not far in and we come across a junction, a dry, hands and knees crawly rift passage goes off to the right, I look left at where the stream continues to see more boulders and a narrowing passage. I recall Keith’s words “follow the obvious passage” so we follow the dry passage for a bit, spurred on by hearing a muffled drum of water over rock as we crawl on. However as we’re supposed to meet with Turkey Streamway and this is passage dry, I decide we should turn around and go back to the junction, but I am reluctant to leave this passage as it is easier going than the stream.
Back in the stream we crawl for a bit then get to a squeeze over a boulder, Keith didn’t mention any squeezes but it looks polished, I wriggle through to see if just around the corner is a nice wider walking passage. Unfortunately it’s more of the same, narrow hands and knees stream way littered with awkwardly placed boulders, obscuring the ‘obvious’ way on. I call back to Rob, who is busy wedging himself in the squeeze, I try to sound optimistic and tell him the passage does continue on. Off comes the helmet and belt again with cramp kicking in once more, but with mega effort and determination, Rob is through. Onward, the passage develops in to tall narrow rift which we crab walk our way along, interrupted by the odd boulder to clamber under or over, but it’s a relief to be able to stand up!
The rift starts to narrow and I’m touching both sides, it doesn’t look polished, we climb up and traverse a bit not sure which is best high or low. It widens and I drop down while Rob stays high, we both scout for signs of the ‘obvious’ route!
It widens further so Rob drops down as well and we continue in the water which varies in depth. In a narrower section of the rift we get to a wedged boulder about my shoulder height, but can’t pass under, Rob kindly gives me a leg up. Once on the boulder I wriggle forward on my stomach, unhelpfully the rift widens to the point my shoulders will no longer wedge me, my legs are still trapped at the narrow bit, I involuntarily slide forward head first in to space, arms pressing the walls to try to slow my descent, at the point I need to learn quickly how to do gymnastics or I’m landing on my face, my legs come free and hit the floor first. Rob just pops over the boulder.
A time check reveals we’ve been going 1hr 10 going through this “fairly straight forward” passage, I say to Rob if this doesn’t meet with Turkey Streamway soon we may have to turn back. Rob suggests 10 more minutes. The passage does start to widen and we come across a pile of boulders, I think I hear voices (but at this stage I could well be hallucinating!) then I see the glow of a head torch, it’s Keith, both parties equally relieved to see the other but we refrained from high 5s, knowing we still had a fair trek to get out. Still not actually at the end of Coal Cellar Passage I follow Keith to hear a yell from behind, it’s Rob, his head torch had conked out! On the plus it took his mind off the cramp in his left leg....

Turkey Streamway - Agen Allwedd
Rob Campbell - Turkey Streamway - Agen Allwedd

Turkey Streamway - Agen Allwedd
Rob Campbell - Turkey Streamway - Agen Allwedd

Turkey Streamway - Agen Allwedd
Loz Appleby - Turkey Streamway - Agen Allwedd

Turkey Streamway - Agen Allwedd
Loz Appleby - Turkey Streamway - Agen Allwedd

We then plod out to see the dying rays of the sun disappear over the hills as we walked back along the tramroad.

Report by Loz

Present: Loz Appleby, Keith Edwards, Rob Campbell and Brendan Marris