Saturday 31 January 2015

Return to OFD Top

We met up at SWCC all raring to go me having to get my bearings and sign everybody in and grab the key...
oh well 2 hours later I was ready lol.
After a cold icy climb up the hill to the entrance we were all ready to get into the warmth with me leading for the first time . It wasn't long before we got lost - I mean made our way down to the Corkscrew.
We all passed through swiftly and didn't hesitate to enter the sandy crawls, from there we made our way to the Judge and the Trident which was a must see.
Rich looking for clues on the survey as to where we might be
We took a short break then forged on to Shatter Pillar and hit the traffic congestion from other groups exploring the area. To save waiting we decided to take a look at the entrance to Lugubrious stream way, where me, Mark and Dan popped in and out to see how tight and awkward it was.
Amy heading back to Shatter Pillar from Lugubrious
After Shatter we ventured onto Presidents Leap, again proving no difficulty to anyone and we were soon heading up Salubrious Passage back towards the Corkscrew.
Upon heading out we met up with the others from which I remember Keith dreaming about the teapot.
All in all was a successful trip. We enjoyed a few ice ball fights on the way down and of course a cup of tea with one of Mark's infamous almond caving cakes.
Trip report: Rich Gibbons

Present: Rich Gibbons, Amy Sawyer, Daniel Cowley, Anya Hall, Mark Burgess, Jess Burkey

Agen Allwedd

With the green light from Wal (the team weather man) informing us that the anticipated snow was now forecast as rain, we arrived at Whitewalls on Saturday morning at 09:00 as planned. With a light dusting of the white stuff and the biting wind blowing we wasted no time changing into our gear and we were soon on our way to the entrance to Agen Allwed.
Our objective was to reach ‘Inner Circle’ but more importantly to enjoy ourselves, give myself and Andy Williams the opportunity to lead and to make sure we resurfaced on time so that Wal was back home for his evening of entertainment.
The four of us signed in for 10:00 with a 17:00 exit time and headed off for Barons Chamber, as we had all previously been in this system before (although for some of us 7+ years ago) we made easy work of route finding through the 1st boulder choke, and within a short time we had reached the chamber.
After a quick check of the survey, we headed down the mud and boulder floor of Barons chamber. I was leading, keeping a close eye out for the opening to main stream passage which would appear on the right. After descending the mud slope the passage quickly reduced down to a crawl, at which point Andy G advised I should check the survey - the tone of his request raising suspicion as to whether I was guiding them the right way! With the stream flowing towards me and not away from me it was soon clear that I was trying to lead the group up Meander passage, which was a bit of a 'Meander' the wrong way!
Back on track we crawled and squeezed our way towards and through the 2nd boulder choke.  This involved some interesting route finding between boulders, a number of down climbs and a challenging traverse near the end of the choke.
At this point the survey mentions a "...long section of mostly roomy streamway..." but what we weren't expecting was a much longer (much, much longer!) section of mostly roomy streamway. As time elapsed, I was beginning to think that we must have somehow missed the Northwest Junction, however reassurance from Andy that the chances of missing the junction was highly unlikely due to it being a fairly obvious point, I carried on leading us down stream.
No sooner had we finished this conversation the Northwest Junction came into sight. After another quick rest stop we continued up Turkey Streamway, passing the Beehive Inlet and Calcite Gallery. Keeping an eye on the time we all agreed that we would soon start the long return journey back. Keen to reach a notable point within the system before we retraced our steps I checked the survey. Knowing that we had already passed Turkey Junction I could see that there were only 2 more passages to our right to pass before we would reach Turkey Pool. We continued along the passage and within a short time we reached the corner to Turkey Pool. Andy W and myself had a quick (chilly) dip in the pool before making a u-turn and heading back out, pleased that we had made it to this point.
Andy W took the lead and retraced our steps to the 2nd boulder choke, we scrambled back up the number of big drops we had encountered on our way in and continued to make good headway through the rest of the choke. Soon we were back in Barons chamber and enjoying watching Andy W search for the entrance point back into the 1st boulder choke. 
Sticking to the rule of keeping right at all junctions we made our way back to the entrance, signing ourselves out at just before 17:00, so we had made a good judgement to end our trip when we did.
A chilly, but less windy walk back to the car and a much needed (and well deserved) stop off for a pint on our drive home made for an excellent end to a successful trip.

report by ... Mike Bonner 
present ..Mike Bonner, Andy Grimes, Steve Wallis, Andy Williams

A Pretty Good Trip In OFD Top

After the appropriate amount of faff around the teapot our group headed up to top entrance and made our way in via the normal route to Salubrious. Here we went right before the Crossroads toward the climb up to Peter’s Pretty Passage. I was so busy explaining the route to Daz that I missed it completely and had to be called back by Keith! After rigging a hand line, which is only of use for the first twelve feet before becoming more of a hindrance, Becca and Daz followed me up. Chloe spent some time on the slippery climb before joining us and then Keith followed. We spent a little time taking some photographs of the passage and helictites before negotiating the tricky climb down to the end of Edwards Shortcut and entering the Northern Canyon. The route through with its various awkward climbs proved no problem and we were soon entering the Labyrinth. Again we had surprisingly little navigational issues as we made our way back to Salubrious and up the corkscrew where we joined the other group by the Wedding Cake formation before heading out for a pot of tea and hot showers.

Daz in Peter's Pretty Passage

Keith in Peter's Pretty Passage

 Present: Chloe Burney, Becca Kirkpatrick, Daz Long, Keith Edwards & Mark Burkey.

Sunday 18 January 2015

Double Booked in Llanelly Quarry Pot

We met up in Luigis for coffee and breakfasts before heading up the Clydach Gorge and onto Llanelly Hill. We were a little surprised to see a group of cavers already kitted up in the layby beside the entrance to the quarry. This was quite a surprise as this is a little visited cave and we made quick introductions to the Hungarian Caving Club - London.
They were already kitted up and quickly headed up to the cave while we changed and sorted out our kit. When we entered the cave there was a rope down the entrance and the main pitch had already been rigged so we shadow rigged the pitch just leaving the main rope in the tackle bag ready to drop down if they exited before us. Knowing their plan was to explore beyond Ryan's Duck we first headed in the opposite direction downstream towards the Midsummer Nightmare Streamway, turning round when things became throughly unpleasant. On the return we took a few photos of the nicer sections of the downstream passage before leaving the camera at the point we joined the streamway. We then headed up the much nicer upstream passage and met up with the Hungarians at the waterfall. Pausing at the start of Ryan's Duck we checked that all were in the mood for a drenching before we swam through to emerge in the fault Series, where we headed through the boulders and made it to the muddy duck, the link to the final chamber and upstream sump. We decided that no one wanted to go through so we headed back keeping up a reasonable pace so we could warm up after the duck. We again met the Hungarians at the point you leave the streamway to get to the pitch and was agreed that we would go out first. All went well until we reached the entrance rift when things slowed somewhat.

Matt in the downstream section of Llanelly Quarry Pot
Matt in the downstream section of Llanelly Quarry Pot

Matt and Loz in the downstream section of Llanelly Quarry Pot
Matt and loz in the downstream section of Llanelly Quarry Pot

Matt and Loz in the downstream section of Llanelly Quarry Pot
Matt and loz in the downstream section of Llanelly Quarry Pot

Matt in the downstream section of Llanelly Quarry Pot
Matt in the downstream section of Llanelly Quarry Pot

Four kit bags and a camera box made the exit from the entrance rift a little slow. We were fortunate in having the Hungarian cavers behind us to help the last person exit the slot at the top of the entrance rift.

Some more information and photos of Llanelly Quarry Pot here

Present: Matt Maylin, Loz Appleby and Brendan Marris

Sunday 11 January 2015

Going in Circles - Five Girls & a Fat Bloke!

After 12 hrs of caving on the Saturday, on Sunday Jess and I staggered in for breakfast to find half the group had decided one day's adventures had been enough for them. This left us with only 6 people looking to go underground. Loz had talked Mel in to doing the outer circle route in Aggy, so it was decided that although it's not a usual Sunday trip, we'd give it a go.
We arranged a 10pm call out with Keith figuring that as we weren't taking camera kit this should give us plenty of time & after the usual faff the group made their way down the escarpment. We logged in at the entrance at 12.30pm and Mel led us through the entrance series to Baron's Chamber in good time. At this point Loz took over the navigation, and as I'd done the Grand Circle route a couple of weeks ago with Brendan, I was able to help through to Northwest Junction. We headed up the Turkey Stream Way and Loz pointed out the other end of Coal Cellar Passage where hopefully we would all be emerging later at the end of the circle. Fun and squeaks were had at Turkey pool and then we headed on to Turkey Chamber.
At this point navigationally everything went a little awry. Loz could remember bits of her previous trip but not in which order they came. At first we thought we were looking for a smaller passage off from the boulder slope and begun down St Valentine's Passage before it became obvious that this was definitely not a trade route and headed over the boulder slope to the correct route toward the Sand Caverns. We were soon crawling and stooping our way down Selenite Needle Passage. Loz thought she remembered a sandy crawl and we made our way through and down a rift in to a series of passages, again it became obvious after a while that this was not the way on and we reversed our way out of what we would later find out was Spiral Passage. Back en route and this time Loz recognised the junction at Eastern Avenue and we stomped our way around the inner circle through to the very impressive Dome Of St Paul's where we spent a little time gazing up at the spectacular ceiling before continuing on. Making our way in to Midsummer Passage we again had navigational difficulties and spent the next hour squirrelling around looking for the way on. Jess pointed out that time was against us and it was decided that if we didn't find the drop in to Coal Cellar Passage in the next 20 minuets that we would have to admit defeat. I found a polished flat out crawl that had been dismissed earlier and pushed through to obviously well travelled passage. We located the squeeze and Loz led the way. She spent a good 5 minutes trying to remember how she actually got through the last time and I began feeling a little uneasy as I saw her struggle through the awkward rift and drop the other side. I then had a go next and found that as well as snug it was extremely awkward and after a couple of attempts backed out to catch my breath and let Chloe have a go. Chloe also found the obstacle quite awkward, but was soon through. I elected to have another go and managed this time to get within a couple of inches from dropping through, with my legs rested on Chloe's head, but I just couldn't find a way to go any further. I couldn't push any further with my arms and couldn't get any purchase with my boots, so again backed out to let Mel and Crystal through. With my oversuit stripped off I had one last go, but again found that it wasn't how tight the obstacle was as much as I just got to a point where I couldn't keep any momentum. Now very aware of the time I sent the group off. We agreed that they would leave a note in the log book to let us know they'd got out ok. Tired and miffed at not getting through I kitted back up. Jess looked as tired as I felt, but I asked her if she felt up to pushing the pace a little so the others didn't have to wait too long at the hut for us and she agreed. We completed the Inner Circle route and continued on, missing the drop back in to the Turkey Stream Way and went on into Frozen River Passage. Fortunately we realised we hadn't been past these pretty formations on the way in and soon found ourselves back on the correct route. We put our heads down and kept pushing on and soon thought we could hear voices. We caught the group at the first climb up to the 2nd boulder choke. Loz looked the freshest out of us and it was agreed that she would run ahead and try to get out to halt the call out. I went with her to assist on the rope climbs till she felt happy and then returned to assist the rest of the group. Crystal looked pretty done in by this point and dug very deep to keep herself smiling and plodding on. We eventually reached the log book at 11pm. Loz had put a smiley by our names to show me she had got out safely. By the time we reached the Hut we found that Loz had a bit of trouble finding the key to get to her phone and Keith had done the prudent thing and initiated the call out. Fortunately a couple of the team live not far from White walls and had come to check things out and found Loz there. We were very glad to have not needed them and all learnt a lesson when it comes to not exceeding the agreed call out.

The Team

Turkey Pool

Present: Chloe Burney, Loz Appleby, Mel Bell, Crystal, Jess Burkey and Mark Burkey

Saturday 10 January 2015

Eat Sleep Cave Repeat. The Time of Our Lives In Daren Cilau

When the White Walls weekend was advertised Becca and Daz contacted me asking if they could have a trip to the Time Machine as a route finding exercise for them in anticipation of a future camping weekend at the Hard Rock Cafe. It is a trip I had heard Keith and Andy G mention a couple of times and a route finding trip I had fancied for a while so agreed to have a go at leading them in.
At the club on Thursday I tried to persuade Mr Edwards to join us and much to my delight he decided to give it a go. Jess, although swearing she would never again do Daren also agreed to give it one last go, and so our team of five was arranged.
Knowing that we would need quite a lot of camera equipment if we were going to try and do the Time Machine justice and also knowing we would need to carry extra food, drink and a first aid kit in with us we emailed Becca the night before to ask if they would mind carrying in some kit; I think I actually used the hook that they would need to carry kit with them to camp so it would be good practice for them :)
As usual our first stop was Luigi's for a good breakfast before heading to White Walls to kit up. Loz was persuaded to give us a lift to the car park (thank you Loz!) and we were enjoying the delights of the entrance crawl by around 11am.
Becca and Daz did a sterling job carrying the heavier bits of kit in, but it did mean the rest of us were able to keep up with them :)
We took a steady pace to Big Chamber and were soon heading off through the crawls to St Valentines Chamber.
Keith and I led off down Preliminary Passage and waited at the bottom of the Ladder climb for the others to catch up.
Jess led up the pitches and was unusually quiet which is not like her. I called up to ask if she was ok....I figured she was either scared or exhausted and called to ask which. After she reached the half way point where there was an awkward change over she called back down to let me know to save my daft questions for when she wasn't using all her effort to climb an awkward pitch.
Keith went up next to take some video and was followed by a very vocal Becca, whom when asked if She wanted me to take the tackle bag declined and climbed with it on her back!
Everyone had struggled getting up the ladder and having belayed everyone my arms were feeling pumped and I was quite nervous.
I shot up the first section of ladder and although awkward didn't find it too bad to the change over to the second section. Here I realised what all the fuss was about as I climbed the overhanging slippery rungs. Red faced, puffing, I worried that my arms wouldn't hold me as I clung desperately to the chain at the top and pulled myself to safety. How Becca managed with a heavy tackle bag on her back was something else.

The traverse and rope climbs caused no problems and we were soon dropping down in to White passage. As we continued onward Keith realised that when he thought he had reached the Time Machine on a previous trip he had actually been only minutes away.
We emerged at the top of  huge boulder slope in to the Time Machine itself and followed markers through to the drop down to The Bonsai Stream Way.
We popped up to the taped section to take a look at one end of the Crystal Oxbow before continuing on to Crystal inlet where we paused for photo's at the services sign.

Time was ticking by and everyone was aware of the return trip that awaited us, so it was decided that we would head back at this point taking some photographs and video as we went.
I could see that the extra weight had taken it's toll a little on Becca and Daz so the kit was re-distributed so that they only had one piece of kit to carry back.
The return trip went well until the entrance crawls where the tired group began to struggle a little in the crawls. Daz kept us entertained with a constant stream of expletives some of which I had never even heard before! He even managed to loose a welly at one point (A trick taught to him by Becca no doubt ;)

Finally after about 12 hours we emerged to find Snow coming down on the escarpment and were very glad to get back to the hut.
All that was left was to eat, sleep and cave the Sunday.....but that's another story.

Present: Keith Edwards, Jess Burkey, Becca Kirkpatrick, Daz Long and Mark Burkey

The entrance crawl
The 65ft Ladder pitch
The Time Machine

The Bonsai Formation by Keith Edwards....and perhaps a little creative editing by Mr Marris :)

Daz and Becca at the services sign

Chilling on Ogof Cnwc

With a fantastic turn out for the Whitewalls weekend, I was asked to lead a group of 5 in to Ogof Cnwc.
After playing taxi for the Daren Cilau trip guys (all 5 of them in one go), I drove Mike & Lucy while Carl took Pablo, I’d recommended driving up to the car park as there was a good chance it would be snowing when we came out.
This was to be Pablo’s introduction to caving in the UK, it had been hinted that it might be a little colder than Spain but he seemed keen, even bought his GoPro!
I’d only ever come out of Cnwc as part of the Daren Cilau through trip and only done that twice, but somehow managed to go straight to the entrance. Carl had already commented on how much he’d ‘enjoyed’ the walk up but it had become apparent we might need a translator, not for Pablo but Carl.
I led my willing victims in through the puddles to a climb down, the crawl in seemed longer than I remembered, nor did I remember climb down, but then with a bit more crawling I saw the plank of wood which I’d enjoyed sliding down on the way out on the previous trips and recognised we were at the top of the scaffold. The water level in the sump at the bottom was pretty close to the bottom of the scaffold and everyone did well to get through without getting soaked.
We soon emerged in to Price’s Prophecy, I realised this was the 1st trip I’d ever been on without someone wearing a Scurion, possibly why the formations seemed a bit darker than last time, but on the plus at no point did I nearly trip over in my own shadow ☺.
We went left to explore the passage way in the opposite way to Busman’s Holiday, heading towards a boulder pile which met the roof it seem this would be a short trip but then found a way through on in to a series of small boulder chambers linked by chokes. One of which involved folding yourself in half to get round a hairpin bend and in to a body length space, the way on blocked by a huge boulder, however there was enough room to stand up if you were able to, further contortion required and a climb up over said huge boulder.
The final little chamber had a nice little formation which Carl happy snapped with his phone, each of us posing, then a little photo bombing as Mike had got bored of doing back lighting and jumped in shot behind Pablo ☺.

After squirrelling about a bit we decided we had exhausted all obvious ways on, so headed back at a leisurely pace. The boulder choke which had required contortion on the way in was a little more interesting on the way out, I went 1st going head 1st off the top of the big flat topped boulder and did some sort of handstand which went better than planned (didn’t land on my face!). The others seemed to manage it no probs, even the awkward hairpin bend which I think is were Carl said something about how much he liked caving and couldn’t recall why he didn’t come more often (thought I might have remembered that wrong).
We pottered back to Price’s Prophecy reaching the turn off for prices dig, we decided we had time to wonder on to Busman’s Holiday and aimed to find the 1st ladder climb down. This involve more crawling than I recalled, this was supposed to be a nice easy trip! Carl, Mike and I pressed through the low crawl to the boulder chamber where we thought we should find the climb down through the boulders, but spent 20 minutes searching before returning back to the other two, we headed back to Price’s and made our way out.
We were out in day light and surprisingly no form of precipitation falling on us, so it turned out to be a nice chilled trip, with commentary from Carl about his love for caving, some of which Pablo recorded, plus Lucy’s unintentional amusing banter. I think Pablo enjoyed it as he asked lots of questions about the cave which I mainly didn’t know the answer to (sorry ask Brendan). Anyway thanks guys!

Present: Pablo Lukather, Mike Bonner, Lucy Collins, Carl Knott and Loz Appleby

Watch: Cavers Tackle the Ladder Pitch in Ogof y Daren Cilau

The video of the Daren trip from last month.

This is what Caving News had to say about it.
"Join members of the Dudley Caving Club on a recent trip to visit Ogof y Daren Cilau‘s Time Machine, the largest cave passage in the U.K.
Filmed by one of our favourite caver/filmmakers Keith Edwards, the video was shot during a recent trip in mid-January."

Ogof Craig A Ffynnon

This trip was run on the Whitewalls weekend in mid January with other trips going into Daren Cilau and Ogof Cnwc on the same day.
This was an uneventful trip led expertly by Chloe going to the Fifth Choke and diverting to look at Helictite Passage on the way. Mark Burgess found that carrying a box is not the easiest of things through long crawls in a cave.

Heading back from Hall of the Mountain King - Ogof Craig A Ffynnon
Heading back from Hall of the Mountain King - Ogof Craig A Ffynnon

Approaching the Fifth Choke - Ogof Craig A Ffynnon
Approaching the Fifth Choke - Ogof Craig A Ffynnon

Present: Chloe Burney, Mark Burgess, Crystal Lee, Mell Bell and Brendan Marris

Saturday 3 January 2015

The Battle of Trafalgar. A trip to Iles Inlet & The Courtesan

For our first trip of the caving year I have been privileged to tick off another of my bucket list of trips. I had seen stunning photographs which Brendan had taken of the Courtesan formation and read horrendous accounts of the trip to it with the mile long Southern Stream passage and numerous squeezes and contortions to get to this stunning area of the cave.
Sounded like just my kind of thing, so an email was put out and a team of six arranged to meet at White Walls for 9am.
After changing in a cold drizzle we made our way down the escarpment to the entrance, logging in at 10.15am.
We made good time through the entrance series arriving at Barons Chamber after only 45mins and were in good spirits as we dropped out of Main Passage in to Southern Stream.
I had only been in this passage once before on our Grand Circle trip and it hadn't seemed too bad. For some reason, not sure if it was the fact I was carrying a hefty camera box or the cold I still hadn't managed to kick off, but the slog up the stream definitely felt more tiring and monotonous this time around.
We arrived at the climb out to Priory Road after 3 hours of caving. Another 20 minutes of sandy, mostly stooping passage, followed till we reached the start of Iles Inlet. This is a collection of very impressive digs in sandy passage creating numerous contortions, U-bends, dog-legs and squeezes. I had been quite nervous of this section having read other trip reports where people had trouble with the dog-leg squeeze / contortions, but these turned out to be more fun than fright and the entire group followed Brendan through with ease.
Even though I had done some research and had survey with us it would have taken some time poking around route finding had it not been for Brendan being there. The descriptions and survey itself give the impression of the route being far more straight forward than it was.
With almost 4hrs clocked up Brendan announced we had reached the junction where Corkscrew Chamber split from Trafalgar Passage.
First we headed up Trafalgar to take a look at the impressive formations, helictites, urchins, stalactites and stalagmites, the passage ending in a sand filled dig.
After this we returned to the branch up to Corkscrew Chamber. Again I had read two reports of people coming all this way only to find they could not get through the last squeeze in to the chamber.
Brendan thrutched up the awkward tube first and I followed........I have to say after a month of turkey and mince pies I was expecting to have far more trouble than I did. In fact I found this last obstacle quite easy, my leg dropped down a slot and found foot holds easily and there turned out to be no actual squeeze.
What you enter in to is just gob smacking. Immediately you are face to face with the Courtesan itself and brilliant white formations are just everywhere. As you begin to look at the delicate crystal structures and calcite formations you notice the very unusual corkscrew helictites which give the chamber its name.
With everyone through we took some time to try and photograph some of this extraordinary chamber. Loz had a squirrel off toward Broadside whilst we did so and re-joined us as we exited for a couple of quick shots back in Trafalgar.
After over an hour it was time to begin our exit. Everyone had chilled down somewhat and Jess handed out some of our spare hand warmers which were immediately stuffed in all sorts of places that I shan't go in to in this blog!
Again the Iles Inlet proved little problem on exit. Chloe found at one point it does make a difference which arm you put ahead of you in a squeeze through....having your arm pinned under you apparently  doesn't help much as you try to thrutch through a U-Bend.
Soon we were back in Southern Stream Passage and Brendan's warning on the way in that it feels a lot longer on the way out was spot on.
Forever we crawled flat out through water, or stooped between rock. Occasionally we'd be able to stand at full height, but this would just be a tease and would only last a moment before you were stooped or on your knees again.
Finally we arrived back in Main Passage where everyone stretched out their backs and were glad to be able to walk stood upright.
We reversed our route through the choke and rest of the entrance series to exit in to the night skies after around 10hrs underground.
We had hoped to stay over at White walls, but unfortunately there was no one around at the hut. After a brief discussion we decided we'd head to Abergavenny for a meal together before heading our separate ways.
A chilly walk down the escarpment
Mel putting a hand warmer where other hand warmers just can't reach!
Mel at The Courtesan
Chloe at The Courtesan
Jess in Trafalgar Passage
Brendan in Corkscrew Chamber
Loz in Trafalgar Passage

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