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