Sunday 21 September 2014

Dan Yr Ogof Round Trip

On our North Wales weekend we fortunate to be offered a leader led trip in to ODB.
Our Leader, Marc, mentioned he was hoping to go to South Wales and we offered to lead some trips for him as a thank you.
Saturday saw us do the classic OFD 1 to OFD II through trip.

To continue Marc’s weekend tour of South Wales, we decided it wouldn’t be complete without a round trip in Dan Yr Ogof. I had been in twice previously so Mark decided to let me lead (without any survey!) to see how much I could remember.

I managed to flawlessly navigate through the show cave…….. Whoever said this leading malarkey was hard work!?

At the Lakes we found the water was at a surprisingly low level and we were soon through to Straw Chamber, where we took a short diversion into Corbel’s Chamber. Marc isn’t particularly keen on small spaces but the long crawl proved to be far less of a challenge than he was expecting and we made it through to the fixed ladder without incident.

Once at the Crystal Pool we stopped to take a few photos, and while Mark packed the camera away, I took Marc along Flabbergasm to show him the straw formations. We then continued through the Grand Canyon to Cloud Chamber and the Green Canal. As always, I was the first to grab a rubber ring and go whizzing off through the clear water. Once we had emptied the ponds from our wellies on the far side, we took a diversion down Go Faster and Go Slower Passage to the Rising. After a photo at the Battleship we retraced our steps and headed to the top of the Abyss. The climb down was far less intimidating than I remembered and in fact was almost fun!

Once under the Camel and through Thixotropic Passage, Mark was very pleased to find the sump to Mazeways open as he had been waiting a while to explore this short but interesting area of the cave. We split up and spent a short while running up the converging and diverging passages, and of course Mark wanted a few more photos. We completed the round trip by making our way back to the crawl via Bakerloo and retraced our steps to the Lakes where Mark decided he really really wanted a photo. Being the ‘water baby’ he explained that my job was to walk out to the centre of the lake, hands full of flash guns, until I was only just holding my head above the water so I could backlight Marc, but of course remembering not to fall in and get the equipment wet! So after what seemed like an eternity teetering on my tiptoes in freezing water trying not to drown either myself or the flash guns, Mark finally had the photo he wanted, and I raced out to the van to get warm.
All in all an excellent trip in a beautiful cave, and a route I am keen to do again soon to cement the navigation in my head.

Marc In Lake 2

Chloe In Mazeways

The Crystal Pool 

Trip Report: Chloe Burney

Present: Chloe Burney, Mark Burkey and Guest Marc (N Wales)

Sunday 14 September 2014

Ogof Pen Eryr - the day after the cave before

Jess recommended this small cave of only 420m length for me and Daz on Sunday, as she thought we would enjoy its squirrely nature. Mel joined us as she was looking for a short outing and an early bath to get back to West Mids for the evening.
It is basically a straight line, and obviously accessible to local kids judging by the graffiti (including direction arrows!) and glow stick that we spotted on our way in. It's also popular for novices, as it gives a taste of lots of different caving aspects on a mini scale. This means that the way is very smooth in many places, so easy to spot. Yet we all still found it extremely enjoyable.

Early on there is a challenging squeeze, which all three of us agreed was tighter than the infamous Daren Cilau entrance we had been through the previous day. The description told us to thrutch though it which we had a good laugh about as we had no idea what this meant. Whatever it was we had a damn good try and hopefully some thrutching was involved. Some parts were harder going up than down due to the lack of friction and gravity.

The Corkscrew was another nice twisty challenge about two thirds along the cave. At the far end a bedding plane is reached, and passing under this, near to a dig, and then up through some boulders takes you to the final chamber which was well decorated with calcite formations. They are all now completely brown apart from a few patches, but still cool. The cave feels snug overall.

We rested in the final chamber and turned off our lights for a good few minutes to experience what Mel called 'the true dark' together. After that, feeling happy, there was nothing left to do but to turn round and make our exit. This took us much less time than we expected and in something like 40 minutes we had reached the fresh air and the solitary sleeping bat at the cave entrance.

Photo of formations in Pen Eryr by Becca

Trip report: Becca

Present: Becca, Daz and Mel

Eglwys Faen

On entering the system through the Oval Entrance we headed left to explore the Eastern Series. We made our way through the crawls and squeezes leading to the 4m free climb, as this was my first leader trip I was a little apprehensive when faced with what could be a nasty drop, I turned to my two experienced cavers for advice and without hesitation Andy K lowered himself into the opening and one by one guided the rest of the group down. Once we had all regrouped Lucy pointed out that the chamber behind her would be worth checking out. This actually turned out to link in with the main route to the canal, which unfortunately for Lucy was flooded to a level slightly higher than the tops of her wellies. On reaching the sump (normally dry according to the survey) we were faced with a flooded passage, with only a small air gap between water level and the roof of the cave, we discussed the various options (one being that as it was my choice of cave I should be the one to go ahead and investigate) but Ian made a valid point that we could always come back another day and why not continue to explore the ‘dryer’ areas.

With this being the most favoured option we retraced our tracks, making easy work of the 4m climb back to the Aven Entrance where we made a left turn into the Main Chamber. We spent a couple of minutes taking in the scale of the cave until continuing on over to the Western Series. This passage began following a small stream which soon turned from a walk, to a stoop, to a crawl along a smooth sandy surface down into Grump Sump. From here we continued over the concrete dam and along the passage until just reaching the boulder choke. On our return we poked around in a number of smaller passages, but not fully trusting the survey and hearing that some areas of the cave could be unstable, we didn’t want to venture too far from safety.

We retreated back to the Main Chamber where we took a quick rest stop and then headed off to explore the Inner Chamber to the back. This quickly reduced to a long crawl which, with the previous days aches and pains rearing their ugly heads, we decided to leave it for another day. We resurfaced through the Main Entrance agreeing that it was a good cave to finish a good weekend of exploring.

Trip report: Mike Bonner

Present: Mike Bonner, Lucy Collins, Andy Kempster and Ian Millward

Craig.A.Ffynnon.......who's he then?

After a early get up I endured a lovely 2 hour drive to whitewalls hut not knowing wat cave I was going 2 go in to, either following or leading I wasn't bothered (kind ov raring 2 go at this point)lol....

Finally meeting up wiv the team, we all split in 2 groups 2 do other caves..
Brendan decided 2 see if he cud get the key to a the cave as been closed for the past 18 months because of rock fall n movement ova the entrance,  so when we were offered the chance to go to Craig a Ffynnon we jumped at the chance..."The quicker we get in the quicker we get out"
(1 enthusiastic caver at 9 in the morn lol)..
We drove the short way down the old heads of the valley road and got changed near the old lime kilns before heading up 2 the entrance. There was indeed piles of fresh rock around the entrance and the boulders above the entrance did look as if a light breeze may move them.
Quickly we made our way in and were soon making our way through pretty decorated chambers, wet and cold pools in Gasoline Alley, and through the scaffold boulder choke. The climb to the 2nd choke has two ropes and steel plates and is an easy climb. The 2nd choke is like a swim through rock and you emerge in to a muddy hell hole (lol) filled passage before crawling through to a massive gour filled passage to the Hall of The Mountain King.

After bypassing the 3rd choke via a smooth calcite flat out squeeze we then continued on through Seven passage...After crawling for half an hour (it always seems longer wen ur doing it) we regained larger passage and we were soon scrambling through the fourth boulder choke...We took a quick look at the pitch to the promised land before moving on to have a poke around the final choke....On the way out we stopped off to take a look at the pretties in Helictite passage and made our way out taking photo’s as we went.

Brendan ravaged suit..Not to sure wat happened eya..did sum cave dwelling monster av him???

Team raring 2 go..

ermm I not 2 sure wat he's thinking hear lol.

Mark n jess on the scaffold boulder choke

wicked trip,muddy as hell..never going caving agen,until the nxt time..

Trip report and photos: Carl Knott

Present: Carl Knott, Loz Appleby, Mark Burkey, Jess Burkey, Chloe Burney and Brendan Marris

Saturday 13 September 2014

Led Astray In Daren Cilau

After a slight false start, with me leading the group out the car park in the direction of Cnwc and not Daren, I got a quick direction check from Mark and then found the start to the notorious entrance crawl.

I reached the section I recalled to be the ‘Vice’ and reported this to the others, though I thought I must be mistaken as it didn’t seem to present a challenge to any of us, only when I got to call box 3 did it confirm that we had passed the vice, much to the disappointment of Daz, Becca and Mel.

My willing victims proficiently wriggled after me and we got to the cascade in 1hr 17mins.

Dropping down in to Jigsaw Passage, I was glad I’d pre read the description “caution” it said, this was one of the accurate pieces of info it provided, there was a slide down on to a slippy boulder, miss it and end up on the calcite slope a few feet lower with repositioned ribs. Everyone chose to use the boulder and exercised good team work curiously guiding the next one down.

On we went through Jigsaw Passage to the random tight spot “The Wriggle” in the massive walking passage and continued to “Big Chamber Nowhere Near The Entrance”, where Mark took us on a quick excursion to find “5 Ways Junction". With “5 Ways” located, Mark went for a further nose while we headed back to Big Chamber, Mark soon rejoined us an off we went down Epocalypse Passage.

And now some rewards for our efforts crawling, Pretties (particularly for Chloe who had just done a straight in and out the entrance crawl on her previous trip). Daz and Becca cooed appreciatively at each formation, Daz literally head over heels about the latter sections of White Company, he couldn’t take his eyes off them to see the slight depression in the floor in front of him which he went A over T into. Mark happy snapped with his shiny new camera and got some cracking shots.

A check with chief time keeper Mel revealed we’d spent a bit too long admiring this 1st lot of pretties, with more to see and cave to cover we tried to pick up the pace. Passing the other end of Urchin Oxbow and on past the Kitchen, up the boulders, down the boulders via the hole (for those still craving a squeeze) or the step down on to a pile of stones. We did a quick run down in to Urchin Oxbow, with flash guns at the ready, Mark took a few more shots, his catch phrase “this will be the last one” being repeated 3 shots before the actual final pic.

Onward to Antler Passage and more pretties, but aware we were up against the clock we didn’t dwell too long. Everyone expertly tackled the numerous up and down climbs overs boulders as well as the climbs up the ladder pitches, where my forearms got a good workout pulling the muddy rope through the figure 8.

It took longer than I remember to reach Busman’s Holiday, more pretties but with little time to our call out we pressed on, my main goal was not to miss the turn in to Prices. Successfully found we headed in to crawly passage which I think Daz, Becca and Mel had been missing since the entrance crawl, to Daz’s delight there was more cold water to go through. Up the scaffold and down the mini slide (plank), Daz, Becca and myself converged at junction, with Mel just behind, we realised Mark and Chloe were not in tow. Mel informed us they were playing in the sump, knowing our call out was due and we were nearly out, I wanted to get to continue to ensure a search party wasn’t on the way.

I conferred with the others about which of the passages to take, deciding the passage with most insects lining the wall was the way out and Daz wanting a decision cos he was getting bitten, I ducked down the turning on the right and a few meters a head saw daylight around the door frame, yay, just the door and we were out!

I tried to pull back the bolt to release the door but found this difficult lying on my front, my 1st proper lead and I fall at the final hurdle, no! I shifted my weight to get a better grip and tried again but still no luck and managed to trap my finger between the bolt and the mech. Deja vu as last time I was in this cave I had reshaped the adjacent finger, so slightly panicked I called Daz to help! He valiantly came to the rescue and freed my finger, the two of us then tried to open the door, looking at the bolt it was well clear of the frame and the door should open.

We tried again and this time, with little force, the door opened and we found Brendan on the other side, I was pleased to see a familiar face and to know that a full rescue wasn’t on the way despite us being a few minutes past our call out. Brendan then revealed he had had to hold the door closed with both hands to prevent Daz and I from opening it! Ha, ha very funny..

Mark and Chloe emerged just after the rest of us, seeming very pleased with themselves, their faces covered with suspicious brown muck... the explanation was they had both made it through the sump (which is apparently normally closed) but to get through it had required them to remove their helmets, hence the extra face paint.

Mark seemed a little disappointed that I hadn’t waited for him to emerge the other side of the sump, I pointed that it was his choice not to play follow the leader and took a detour to try and drown himself. I think that’s why he pushed me over in the “no one died or nuffink” photo.

Thank you to all for allowing me to lead you astray..!

No One Died or Nuffink!

Mel at the Pagoda

Becca at The White Company

Daz at the Antlers

Chloe in Urchin Oxbow

Trip report: Loz Appleby
Photos: Mark Burkey
Present: Loz, Daz, Becca, Mel, Chloe and Mark

Agen Allwedd

Mike had opted to lead a group into Eglwys Faen on Sunday and he and Lucy both liked the idea of a trip into ‘Aggy' on the Saturday. I still had no firm plans but had full permission from domestic chief of staff for the weekend so over a few pints of tea in the windmill I volunteered to lead us into Aggy and then make up the numbers for Mike on Sunday. Andy W had no plans for Saturday so the four of us decided upon a trip to the Music Hall and back.

We set off at 10:00 hrs from the CSS hut and arrived at the entrance in good time. We kitted up outside and then Lucy volunteered to lead us into the system with the brief that the way to the First Boulder Choke was to keep turning left.

We had a few concerns over the route description, the survey, and the actual route on through the choke and as Lucy called back to us that "it's getting very small and tight down here" she didn't see three big blokes look at each other thinking if the passage was tight for her how on earth are we going to get through. We retraced our steps and decided to look for another possible route forward and as we were doing so we heard voices in the dark. Unfortunately it was another DCC group who had followed us into the system and as they had been into the system before they went passed us and on down the route that Lucy had lead us into.

We waited for them to pass as we didn't want to play follow my leader, and then we continued to explore our way through into the main passage. Lucy had done the right thing by retreating when she felt it was too narrow to go on, but after passing through into the Baron's Chamber she realised that it was easier than she had anticipated. This was the whole focus of the trip for all of us really; having a go at leading a group along a passage that none of had any experience of and seeing where we ended up.

We headed along the main passage following our progress on our cave surveys and identifying the passages off to the sides that we wanted to spend some more time exploring on the way back. In the music hall we met up with the other group again and after exchanging some banter and groan worthy jokes we headed back to explore Southern Stream Passage.

We followed Southern Stream Passage for a short way and then took the side route off into Sandstone Passage but Mike was the only one who managed to pass successfully through the tube into the passage itself. After acknowledging that the round trip that continued on through Southern Stream Passage would be a committing venture, we headed back to the short drop down into Northern Stream Passage. This was smaller and had more water flowing through it and after a short distance along it we decided that we could all say we had been in the passage and as it went nowhere else but simply got smaller and smaller we would happily retreat back to the Main Passage.

We headed back out of the system and once back at the area of the First Boulder Choke we all felt that we had not quite done enough caving so we again so we proceeded to spend nearly an hour exploring all of the different potential routes out from the chamber before again hearing the approach of the other group. They passed out through the passage that we were just about to head down and we unfortunately had to follow them out. But we had done a lot more caving than they had!!!

Once back outside we headed back to the club hut and despite my keen attempts the others would not start "just jogging the last little bit back" to make our call out time, so we were over our allotted time by 2 minutes.

Overall a great day caving in great company and we all learnt a few things along the way!

Trip report: Andy Kempster

Present: Mike Bonner, Lucy Collins, Andy Williams and Andy Kempster

Sunday 7 September 2014

SRT Trip To The Nave

Sunday saw a relaxed start to the day with Loz turning up at about half past ten.
She had requested an SRT trip to practice ready for our upcoming adventures in Majorca.
As Brendan and I had quite a tiring trip on the Saturday we decided on a short trip to The Nave.
This has 3 short pitches with a deviation for Loz to practice and slightly awkward pitch heads.
We finally got in to the cave around half past eleven and made short work of the 'tourist route' through to swamp creek.
Loz acquitted herself admirably on all the pitches, she is also becoming excellent at standing around whilst I practiced my photography ;)
We finished our outward bound trip with a quick run around the main stream way before heading back out via the same route we'd entered.

Loz on the entrance pitch
Loz on the 2nd pitch

Trip report and photos: Mark Burkey

Present: Brendan Marris, Loz Appleby & Mark Burkey

Saturday 6 September 2014

Ogof Fawr - So Fawr, So Good

We headed to Ogof Fawr to have a good explore of the cave, visit a couple of areas missed on previous trips and take some photos. After a breakfast in Luigis we headed out to Cwm Cadlan where we parked and then took the 1.4km walk to the cave. The first thing we found on arriving at the cave was Mark had two left gloves and so we made our way into the cave, Mark barehanded, which was pretty bad for Mark with all the sharp and loose rock. We systematically made our way through the cave taking photos and exploring all the side passages and oxbows as we went. This was quite tiring caving as there are long sections of stooping / crawling which was hard carrying camera gear. One area of interest was a side passage that led to the top of a climb down, which we had not visited before. The 4m climb was descended to enter a large muddy chamber where everything was covered with a film of mud from the regular flooding. We then made our way to the end of the cave and ferreted around the different levels and passages. Eventually bored of crawling and tired we made our way out taking a couple more photos as we went.

Ogof Fawr
Mark Burkey in Ogof Fawr

Ogof Fawr
Mark Burkey in Ogof Fawr

Ogof Fawr
Mark Burkey in Ogof Fawr

Ogof Fawr
Mark Burkey in Ogof Fawr

Ogof Fawr
Mark Burkey in Ogof Fawr

Some photos and description of Ogof Fawr here

Present: Mark Burkey and Brendan Marris