Wednesday 31 December 2014


A few weeks ago we did a very enjoyable through trip in OFD along the main streamway. At the time Mark mentioned that one option for the through trip would have been the high level series along the Midnight & Marble Showers traverses. 
Most normal people shudder at the thought of traversing on tiny ledges 70ft above the water, but I thought this was a great option – I hate the streamway! I find it really unnerving that the floor is so uneven and I can’t see where I’m putting my feet, so I end up crawling along at a snail’s pace and find it utterly exhausting.
When we realised that it would just be the two of us caving on New Years Eve I asked if Mark would lead me along the traverses for a through trip from Top to Cwm Dwr. 

In spite of the fact that we were both still suffering from Man Flu and a bit stiff from the previous two days’ caving, we were ready to go underground by midday. Anticipating a fairly swift trip, we left call out for 7pm. Penwyllt was a hub of activity with everyone preparing for the New Year’s Eve festivities, and not many groups were going underground.

We soon arrived at Edward’s Shortcut and as usual I fluffed the slither down the slippery chimney with Mark having to catch me. The trip onwards was fine however, and soon we were at the Midnight Traverses. These were dealt with rapidly and we arrived at the rope ladder, which thankfully has been repaired and fortified since the last time we were there, when it looked ready to give way.
Easy walking passage and a short traverse followed up to a junction. We could hear the stream far below, but it wasn’t obvious which way to go, Mark chose the right hand passage. 

This was followed past some pretty formations to a flat out crawl which seemed to end in a choke. After a little hunting we spotted a squeeze through at floor level but Mark wasn’t sure he recognised it. 
We retraced back through the crawl to try another passage which forked off, but this also closed down. 
Back through the crawl again to try the squeeze through! I had to take my helmet off and wriggle hard, and at the tightest bit my long hair got stuck under my shoulder, wrenching my head back and causing me to squeal like a stuck pig. Trapped by my own hair! I got through to a small chamber but the way on looked just as gnarly and unforgiving, and Mark was sure that we had gone wrong somewhere.
Back along the flat-out crawl for the 4th time Mark took full advantage of our navigational blip and took a couple of photographs of what we later found out was Sandfill Passage.

We made our way back to the junction and this time Mark recognised the correct way down to the traverses. The only problem was, without being able to see the streamway, should we head right or left? Right seemed the logical continuation of our route, and there were obvious footprints to follow on the tiny ledges.
We went on for some time and mostly the traverses weren’t too bad, though a bit sparse in places. You have to work your way up and down the different levels to find footholds, and with a bit of squeaking I followed Mark down a 20ft ‘controlled slide’ down the rift to reach a small ledge, followed by a thrutch to get to some wedged boulders. Unfortunately, when I joined him there he was looking rather worried.
“Umm I can see the water now” he said, “and we’ve been going upstream…”
Unfortunately we also seemed to have run out of ledges. Looking back at the last couple of moves we had done I tried to work out if I could possibly reverse them and ‘controlled slide’ back up the rift. It really didn’t look likely and the streamway was still a long, long way down if I slipped. Can’t go forward, can’t go backwards; the only option seemed to be to stay put and wait for the call out! I imagined the happy faces of all at Penwyllt as they spent their New Year’s Eve looking for us instead of celebrating.

Luckily Mark was a mountain goat in a former life and managed to spot some tiny ledges leading us down nearer to the water. The ledges crumbled as I manoeuvred my way down in his wake but eventually we safely made it to the bottom and breathed a sigh of relief. 
Although my relief was somewhat short lived as I realised we had dropped in to the main stream way just before the 15ft pot and I'd have to do my least favourite part of the through trip after all!!!
Quite tired by now I jumped in to every deep pot swimming across till we finally reached the confluence. We opted for a route out up the Cwm Dwr stream way and climb up the waterfall to the Smithy before heading through the choke and crawls to reach the SWCC for 6PM!

Jess on Brigadier Glennie's Ladder

Jess in Sandfill Passage

Jess in Sandfill Passage

Jess in Cwm Dwr Jama

Trip Report Jess Burkey

Present Mark Burkey & Jess Burkey

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