Sunday 30 November 2014

Swimming with the fishes, a classic OFD through trip.

For the second trip of the weekend it was decided we would do a trip we had been planning for the week before, the through trip from OFD 1 to Top.

As we had arrived back quite late after grabbing a meal on the Saturday, Chloe decided rather than pitch her tent she would stop in the bunk house.....this turned out to be something of a mistake as she didn't quite manage two full hours of sleep with people popping in and out of her room till 6am!

After seeing the state of her, Jess and I asked if she wanted to change plans, but Chloe had been looking forward to having another go at this classic trip.

Chloe again led the way in and stormed through the OFD 1 stream way to the connecting choke. After the choke and through the connection her memory began to fail her a little navigationally. But we still made good time through OFD 1.5 to the Letter box connection where fatigue began to slow her down a little so we took a break for some photo's before continuing.
Again tiredness took over on the divers pitch climb so I took full advantage of this and instead of assisting her down took lots of photographs whilst she clung to the rock! ;)
After again having offered to cut the trip down and exit via Cwm Dwr, Chloe declined and we continued through to the main stream way.
For Chloe it's climbs, for me its squeezes, for Jess it has always been stream way that has been her Kryptonite, but it seems having a Scurrion and a couple of years more experience she has overcome her nemesis and I found myself struggling to keep up with her new found confidence!
The girls spotted some albino fish swimming in the stream way before joining them swimming across the pots whilst I did my best to traverse them. At Marble showers I set up my flash guns, with Chloe backlighting, and Jess modelling I balanced my front flash gun on a rock and.........splash! The flash gun was also swimming with the fishes :(
By the time we reached Maypole inlet I think it is fair to say that Chloe's criteria for her caving weekend had been met. She barely had the energy for the climb and was very happy to see sunlight as we exited after 5hrs of fun and photos!

Jess and Chloe at the letterbox

Jess and Chloe at the Divers Pitch

Jess in Marble Showers

Present: Jess Burkey, Mark Burkey & Chloe Burney

Saturday 29 November 2014

Dan-yr-Ogof & Sucking the fun out of caving

I had been lacking enthusiasm for organising a trip for the weekend so Jess and Chloe decided on a couple of trips.

The first was to be DYO....... Jess wanted to do the tighter bit of the longer crawl as she had previously done the whole route, bar about 5m of tight squalid crawling. Chloe's only prerequisite was that she wanted a couple of challenging trips as she hadn't found anything tiring of late......Chloe has previously asked for trips that scare her and trips that she would find 'memorable' in the past and this weekend we were again able to fulfil her criteria :)

Entering through the show cave we were in for a pleasant surprise with reindeer, penguins and father Christmas lining the route in!
Sploshing through the lakes I noticed a passage off which I had previously not explored. Fairly sure it would be the way in to the Syphon Series I called the other two to follow and we did indeed find a couple of pieces of pipe in a clear pool. After a couple of minutes priming the pipe we headed off for our round trip whilst the syphon did its work.
On our way through we took a quick detour to Wigmore Hall and up the old dig at the end before continuing on through to the climb up to the longer crawl. The crawl itself was somewhat more strenuous than I remembered as this time I had my camera box catching and jamming every couple of feet, but we were soon through the worst and continuing with our round trip. Chloe led the way with only a couple of pointers for route finding.
On our way out we decided to take a look at the syphon and found that there was a good foot and a half of air space and the syphon still going strong. We were well within our call out time so decided to go and have an explore. I led the way and was soon lying in gloomy mud with a foot of water covering it as I negotiated the duck through to the muddy section of the series. We headed down the passage way first slipping and sliding our way through copious amounts of sludge until we reached a sump. About facing we headed the other way until we reached a blocked constriction. This was at the foot of a very muddy and slippery slope and both Jess and Chloe were in fits of giggles as they tried to turn around in the very small chamber at the end and slid all over the place. On our way back through the duck we headed up a more inviting looking passage which soon turned in to a sharp and awkward rift. Again this was followed to its conclusion taking pieces of my suit with it (back at the hut I would check the survey and find this passage aptly named 'Razor Passage')
Back in the lakes we washed off the sludge and mud......Jess was sure we'd actually found the sewage series rather than the syphon series.......before returning to warm up with a luxuriously warm shower.

Jess tries to ppppick up a penguin!

Chloe finds Santa stuck in a squeeze!

Jess in the cascades between the entrance lakes

Chloe negotiates the tight longer crawl

Jess in Bakerloo Straight

Present: Mark Burkey, Jessica Burkey, Chloe Burney

Saturday 22 November 2014

Northern Lights Series OFD II

Jess and I were joined by a poorly sounding Brendan on Saturday morning for the drive down to South Wales.
We had a brief stop to pick up an 'on the road breakfast' at a garage on the way and were at the club and ready to head underground for just before 11am.
Jess chose the trip and John (an SWCC member looking for something to do) decided to join us.

As we made our way through  to the cross rift it became obvious that Brendan was a little more under the weather than he'd realised. With nose running and bloodshot eyes he headed slowly out to go and nurse both himself and the teapot back at the club.
John had last been to the Northern Lights series over a decade before and Jess and I had been a few years ago. Because Brendan knew the route we hadn't bothered to bring any survey with us, but before departing Brendan had given us a quick description of the route in and we were pretty confident that we could find our way.
Jess led us through to midnight passage where John and I took over the route finding past the pull through to the upper oxbow series, through wet crawls, Mudlust hall, Moonmilk revelry, across an awkward exposed climb, sand crawls and down a body sized tube until we were at the very wet dogleg crawl which would lead us in to the rest of the series.
Here John decided he would need to start heading out as he'd promised to play taxi driver for his daughter. After saying our goodbyes Jess and I continued through the cold water to a rope climb up in to a roof tube. Although we were pretty sure the way on was straight ahead we wanted to explore every passageway as we went, so followed the passage in to opposite direction down a slippery climb in to a water filled tube.....
"I'm pretty sure we've just done a round trip", I called to Jess and soon emerged at the foot of the rope climb we had just done! ;)
On we went exploring as we went all of the passage in the area through to 'The Blockhouse' Where we heard another party coming through. Together we explored the furthest reaches until the other group began heading out and Jess and I took a few photo's as we retraced our route.
Brendan had explained there were two routes in to the system, the one we had taken and a tight rift. He had advised we try the tight route on the way out as if I didn't fit on the way in it was a long way to retrace our steps. Finding the rift I headed down first and found it not too bad at all.
Route finding became more interesting on the way out until we found the body sized tube we'd come in through. Picking up the Moonmilk Revelry we were back in familiar territory and after grabbing a few more photographs we headed out to meet up with Brendan for a good dinner in Abercrave.

Jess in Moonmilk Revelry

Jess in Keyhole passage

Jess entering through the wet dogleg

Present: Mark Burkey, Jess Burkey, Brendan Marris and John SWCC

Sunday 16 November 2014

Dudley South Wales Weekend OFD 1 Round Trip

Our original plan had been a through trip for Sunday, but after our adventures the previous day and because of the water levels, a slightly less demanding trip was called for.
We decided on an OFD – 1 round trip with a visit to Column Passage and The Eagle’s Nest thrown in.
We took the usual route and dropped in to the steam way at the step where the water level was just a few inches over.
We proceeded up the stream way through to boulder chamber before returning to Lowe’s chain to climb up to Lowe’s passage.
Keith had some fun, getting Loz to lead the way through roundabout chamber….Oh wow what lovely formations, much better than the one's we saw a moment ago, wow what lovely passageway, look another crawl......Keith could help himself no longer, it had been played to perfection, she had no idea she was now retracing her steps back the way she'd come ;) …and then the girls had further fun rolling through the roll over crawl ‘till Chloe got a smack in the chops from a closely following Loz.
Continuing on through Pi Chamber and over the Bolt Traverse and out the escape route before climbing up to take a look at the Column.  Keith found The Eagles Nest in a passage we had missed on the way through and I couldn’t resist having a quick round trip dropping down from the eagles nest to the stream way. 
All that was left was a quick play at the water slide before heading out over Pluto’s Bath, where Loz and Crystal had some fun in the pot.

We finished the weekend in style with a good meal at the Beefeater before completing our drives home.

Crystal at Gypsum Corner - OFD 1 Round Trip

Loz in the Rawl Series OFD 1 Round Trip

Present: Crystal, Mel, Chloe, Keith, Matt and Mark

Saturday 15 November 2014

Getting Stuck In To The Crystal Maze

Keith and I are unsure how exactly the weekends trips were decided upon, but for Mark-2 and Crystal’s first trips with Dudley, an adventure in to the maze like passages through the Sand Banks in Cwm Dwr Quarry Cave was decided upon. We were both a little wary of taking two ‘unknowns’ on a trip that we wouldn’t have normally considered novice, but figured we could always amend plans as we went to suit the capabilities of the group.

As ever we began the day with all but Mark-2 meeting at Luigi’s for breakfast. Unusually for us we actually arrived at the SWCC on time and after 'collecting' Mark-2 we were kitted and ready to go under ground by 11am. Our fears proved unfounded as our groups made swift progress through the entrance series of shafts, crawls, walking passage and boulder choke to emerge in Big Shacks 1. To this point Matt, Chloe and Loz had been leading the way in to the system, but here was where Keith would take over the navigation. The route we were to take Keith had not visited in over a decade and is a maze of passageway.

With not a single senior moment arising, Mr Edwards swiftly led us through the passageway to a tightening route that would take us through to the Sand Banks and connection to the route to Upper Smithy. Keith had warned this route would be snug and awkward for both the larger of us and the taller, so it was decided we would keep the ‘Big Boys’ at the front of the group so they could help each other if they became stuck at any point, the girls would bring up the rear.

Soon Keith was calling back……’Right, I’m now at the tight, awkward bit’…….Bugger I thought and pushed through a slightly awkward bit of passage. As I emerged Keith called back……’Actually now I’m at the tight awkward bit!’………Bugger I thought as I reached an awkward thrutch up a level to post myself in to a tight piece of keyhole passage. Jamming myself in the larger top half I thrutched forward until through and then called back to Rob that it was more awkward than tight.

Soon Keith and I were joined by Rob, Matt and Mark-2. Keith had just begun to explain where we were in relation to the route to the Upper Smithy when a call came from the girls that Crystal was having a little bother. Keith and I called our usual stock words of encouragement down the tube to them, but when there was still only grunting coming back after a minute or two I decided I’d better go investigate. Crystal, being far smaller than the rest of us, had trouble staying up in the wider part of the keyhole and had slid down in to the slot and could not move forward or backward, nor could she push up to free her hips.

We first put a sling through her belt and Mel tried to pull her up whilst I did the same with her arms, but it quickly became apparent this was not going to work. The leverage had to come from Mel’s side as there just wasn’t room my side and I couldn’t see how I could get over Crystal without trampling her, so I called to Mr Edwards to come join us. I covered Crystals Head and torso with my upper body and Keith scrambled over me toward Mel.

It’s hard to describe just how delicate an operation this was as at one point the 3 of us were sandwiched between each other in a passage which was only really big enough for one person! The next problem was that there was not enough room even on Mel’s side of the passage for Keith to turn around. He called for Chloe to move back, but she was at the point past the first ‘tight awkward’ manoeuvre and was unable to either reverse or turnaround herself. Fortunately Mel managed to squeeze herself backward just enough that Keith was able to contort himself and turn back to face me. Again we tried to heave Crystal, but there seemed to be no movement at all no matter what we tried. It was becoming obvious we would need to get more strength on the far side. The problem was that the girls behind Keith could not turn around and could not reverse, so the only option was for everyone to continue. As Keith clambered back over Crystal he found some purchase for his knees and at an angle directly above her decided to have another go at lifting her. Grabbing her by the belt he put everything he had in to it and Crystal moved upward by a quarter of an inch. So as not to lose this advantage Keith grabbed a leg before she could slip back down, apologising as he did so.

“You can grab whatever you like as long as you get me out of here!” came Crystals reply.

With her hips free it was then straightforward to assist her back in to the keyhole. I have to just say that if it had been me who had just gotten wedged on any caving trip let alone my first; I would have been a quivering wreck!
Crystal had remained calm throughout and said afterward that she had completely trusted us……the mad fool!

Asked if she wanted to head out after her adventure she replied No Way! So after a short diversion to show me the route to connect toward the Upper Smithy, Keith led us through the sand crawls and down to take a look at the confluence and sump.

After this he passed the route finding reigns over to me to lead out a route that Brendan, Jess and I had discovered on a previous trip. Keith had led us faultlessly through a route he had done 12 years before, unfortunately I managed a couple of wrong turns before I recognised a route I’d only done 12 months before!

After this the exit went smoothly and we were soon gathered around the tea pot telling tales of our adventures - Miss-adventures! and planning our next days trip.

Present: Matt, Chloe, Loz, Crystal, Mel, Rob, Keith, Mark1 & Mark 2

Sunday 9 November 2014

Tunnel Top and The Paul and Barnabas Extensions

Having feasted on a fine breakfast at Luigi's in Abergavenny Chloe, Loz, Mark and Jess headed to the Dan Yr Ogof car park whilst Keith and Brendan grabbed the key from SWCC.
All changed we plodded up the hill and then dropped the entrance pitch in to Tunnel Top entrance. We were soon across the traverse and down the calcite slope where the group removed their SRT kit and headed off in search of The Paul and Barnabas extensions.
Mark admires the formations
Mark and Chloe had scouted the climb up on a previous visit so we wasted no time reaching the foot of this.
Keith navigating the tight rifts
Mark climbed up first and rigged a belay to bring the others up and Keith and Jess headed up the tight rift to continue the route followed by Loz.  Chloe then had some fun pushing up through the rift and finally Mark followed.
Brendan , suffering a servere bout of man flu, decided he'd had quite enough fun and elected to pootle about back at the base of the climb.
Mark and Keith went up in search of Pearl passage before joining Jess who had squirrelled off leading through crawls, further rifts and canals until finding the twin 'Paul and Barnabas' formations. Mark popped up a roof tube for a quick look at the stream way and cascade before re-joining the group and reversing the route.
Brendan in the entrance series
Collecting Brendan on our way out we were soon changed and warming up on the drive to the Beefeater before the M50 where we finished the day as it started .....feasting on a good meal :)

Mark admires the formations

Loz exits the pitch

Photographs: Jessica Burkey

Present: Chloe Burney, Loz Appleby, Keith Edwards, Brendan Marris, Jessica Burkey & Mark Burkey

Sunday 2 November 2014

Somewhere over the Rainbow...GB lies...

As Mark and I had to be back home fairly early on the Sunday, the group decided a trip to GB would fit the bill. Loz, Chloe and Mel had done the round trip previously but not the Ladder Extensions, and Mark hadn’t been there at all.  A night of very heavy rain saw Chloe almost float out of her tent but by morning was hardly a drizzle.

A new farm shop/cafĂ© just up the road from Swildon’s was discovered that served an excellent breakfast at a decent price (we may be seeing more of Keith and Ian in the Mendips now perhaps?) and Mel turned up to join us just after 10.
We got into GB and made our way down the rifty climbs into the main passage, to be met with a surprising torrent of water where on previous visits there was only a trickle. When we got to the rock bridge we paused for Mark to take a couple of snaps – made more difficult as no one could hear each other over the roar of the water.
Once over the rock bridge I was looking forward to everyone missing the drop down to the way on, as you can wander round for ages once you go past it, but Brendan spoilt my fun by pointing it out. Chloe then led us through to the climb down near Bertie’s Pot (not the pot itself this time) and we were back in the main passage. At the bottom of the passage (now streamway) the Ladder Extensions are accessed via a short rock wall on the right. The wall has to be climbed by clipping alternate ends of a ladder into first a P bolt then a chain. I’d wanted to have a go ever since I saw Becca do it, and it was indeed an easy way to get up a wall!
Mark followed me up and went off to see if we could get through the duck or if it would be too full of water. While the others were coming up the ladder he came back to report that it was indeed passable. Most of us went through the duck on our backs but Brendan always prefers to make it more fun by trying to squeeze through the tightest bit with his face under water so that he can’t breathe when he really needs to. It’s very kind of him to entertain us and we showed our appreciation with plenty of laughter.

Brendan then sent Mark up a dodgy-looking climb up boulders into the Great Hall while he led the rest of us up a slightly easier climb, punctuated by a squeeze up between boulders where he again provided some entertainment. Following him up, I became physically trapped in the squeeze! Before the team could call out Cave Rescue I removed my Capri-Sun and slipped through easily (this is the 2nd time a Capri-Sun has almost caused a caver to require rescue, Brendan having previously been trapped by one in his pocket....I can't stress strongly enough just how dangerous these drinks can be and advise that only very experienced cavers even consider taking them underground!)

Chloe followed up, hauling both camera boxes, only to find that neither photographer felt they could get a decent picture. Time-wise we should really have turned round at that point, but I really wanted Mark to see the very pretty Bat passage, so we pushed on there and it was duly admired and photographed.
On our way back out of the cave we felt that the water made the cave much more fun and it was actually quite intimidating as we crossed the waterfall. Brendan pointed out that the water in the sump at the end of the main passage had actually fallen quite a bit, proving that the cave reacts quickly to rain, or the lack of it.

A beautiful rainbow awaited us as we exited the cave and was a lovely finish to a great weekend.

Brendan and Loz at the rock Bridge
Chloe and Mel in Bat Passage
The walk back from the cave

Present: Chloe Burney, Mel Bell, Loz Appleby, Mark Burkey, Brendan Marris & Jessica Burkey

Saturday 1 November 2014

Longwood Swallet / August Hole & We Didn't Drown Or Nuffink!

Saturday saw us having a typical start to the day......faffing and feeding..... After breakfast at Waitrose we continued on to the Wessex to collect a key for our first cave of the weekend, Longwood Swallet.

With all the faff we managed to surpass ourselves and arrived at the entrance just before midday!

As the old system of locking the lid had been difficult for most people to open, it has now been changed to make it almost impossible for all people to open!

An epic struggle ensued between Brendan and said lock. Finally Brendan was victorious and led the way ahead down the tight rifts and letterbox squeeze to rig the head of the first climb.
We were soon down this and the next climb and popped to take a look at the very aqueous August Hole route before continuing on to an exposed climb down to the Great Chamber. Here we rigged a hand line and again all were soon down and traversing around to the head of Swing Pitch.
The last time we were here we tried doing this with a hand line, turns out it is much easier and less life threatening with a ladder!
With this rigged we all made our way down through rift chamber and headed upstream to the boulder chokes before continuing downstream to the sump. Jess and I headed off down a crawl before the sump and continued on to Fanny's rift. We both thought we could probably get down through this rift, but neither of us were sure that without a hand line we would be able to get back out so re-joined the others.

On the way out the group split, with Brendan volunteering to de-rig the climb to the Great Chamber and the rest of us exiting via the tight wet crawls and squeezes of August hole. This proved to be a challenging and sporting piece of cave, especially when carrying kit!
At one point we had the choice of squeezing up through a torrent of water in to a vertical body sized rift or a nice polished dry passage. The nice dry passage choked after 20m (Of course) and we returned to the less inviting option.
After struggling up through this with kit bags and boxes catching on everything we were rewarded with a further tight rift to slot through in to a wet dog leg tube before finally emerging to re-join with Brendan and reverse the awkward entrance rift. Myself, Jess and Chloe led the way and were just beginning to worry about the other two when we heard Brendan's curses as he and Loz struggled back through the rift with a full kit bag. We finally emerged in to darkness before heading back to the Wessex for a quick shower and then finished our day with an excellent meal in Cheddar and planned our next days adventures.

Jess and Chloe make their way up the rifts

Loz climbing up to the Swing Pitch

Present: Loz Appleby, Jess Burkey, Chloe Burney, Brendan Marris & Mark Burkey