Sunday 29 March 2015

Peak Cavern.......A Dudley CC Trip In To The Devil's Arse

Those that hadn't stayed at the TSG met up with the others Sunday Morning.
After bacon sandwiches all round washed down with a couple of cups of tea we headed up the hill to the impressive Peak Cavern entrance.
We arrived just as the show cave was being opened and made our way in. 
There were the usual squeals as we made our way through the chilly Mucky Ducks and then along Upper Gallery. 
At the climb up to Pickerings Passage Keith began filming the gang as they navigated the crawls, squeezes and contortions on their journey to the sobering but beautiful Moss Chamber.
After making our way back to Upper Gallery we headed down Surprise View for a look at Buxton Water Sump.
Keith and Ian accompanied Mike and Loz as far as Squaw's Junction, then Mike and Loz continued on to take a look at Lake sump. 
Meanwhile Jess, Lucy and myself had a play with the camera at Surprise View. 
Re-grouped we made our way out, giving each other the customary scrub down as we exited. 

Back at the TSG it was time for tea and the biggest slice of chocolate cake you've ever seen compliments of Mr Edwards.

Peak Main Stream Way

Peak Main Stream Way

Surprise View

The Video

Present: Lucy Collins, Mike Bonner, Loz Appleby, Ian Millward, Keith Edwards, Mark Burkey & Jess Burkey

Saturday 28 March 2015

Like a streak of lightning through Middleton Dale

With only occasional visits to Derbyshire, we had got into a habit of visiting just a select few classic sites, and so we picked out Streaks Pot from the guidebook - something a little different to have a try out. After breakfast in Morrisons we sent Jess off on her bike and then headed to Stoney Middleton following instructions for Mark's Sat Nav, that must have been in 'Taxi Driver' mode as it took us on a tour of the Peak District. We finally arrived in Stoney Middleton and then took the GPS and had a walk to locate both entrances. This duly completed we kitted up and headed to the Top Entrance. A short crawl led to a fine 11 metre pitch that we laddered , and then down we went led by Mike down through rifts and shafts to meet a squeeze at the bottom, that features as the cover photograph for the Derbyshire guidebook. I took two attempts to get through and then we crawled to meet the trickle of water that made stream at this point. Mark then led the way to the upstream passages calling us all through as he had scouted some fine locations for photos. We explored up to Lu-blu sump and then took a handful of photos on our way back to the junction at the bottom of the entrance series.

Upstream in Streaks Pot
Lucy upstream in Streaks Pot

Upstream in Streaks Pot
Lucy upstream in Streaks Pot

Upstream in Streaks Pot
Mike upstream in Streaks Pot

From here there could only be one way on it was an awkward squeeze up between blocks, followed by more awkward squeezes as we worked our way by trial and error through Nervous Breakdown to meet the stream proper on the other side. This was followed until we paused at a inlet where the water increased and progress was decidedly aqueous. With more rain forecast we wanted to be sure we were on route before heading any further downstream. We identified our location as Donkey Dong Inlet (the Donkey Dongs hanging from the roof). We then headed with a little trepidation towards the Mousehole, which we thought from the name was going to be the deal breaker of the trip, but we must have passed it without realising. Spirits raised now as we knew we would not have to retrace our steps, and we headed to Route 66. Here we made a navigational error and headed through a tight awkward squeeze into a boulder choke with no way on. We backtracked to a junction and then found the right route. Following the draught up a tube to the lower entrance we encountered the tightest squeeze of the day as we broke through into the bottom of the short entrance shaft. In summary - a fine through trip with plenty of squeezes, crawls, mud, water and tight bits - whats not to like?

Present: Mark Burkey, Lucy Collins, Mike Bonner and Brendan Marris

Knotlow Cavern and Hillocks Mine

I had wanted to lead a novice SRT trip into Knotlow and Hillocks for a few months now and on Saturday 28th of March five of us met up at the old smithy café in Monyash to do just that. The aim of the trip was to consolidate the training on the outside of the mill with some SRT in a real underground environment.

Mark had only spent a few hours on the mill but was confident with his rope work and Rich had been practising for a little longer but neither had descended underground before. Loz joined us as an experienced vertical caver having completed Titan and several other SRT trips who just wanted to play underground and Andy G joined us as his planned trip for the day fell through.

I had talked about our options with Mark and Rich at the mill and we had decided to go in and out on the same ropes to practice passing rebelays and deviations but without any other cavers experienced in rigging we would not be able to set up anything else. So when Andy G joined us that meant we could get stuck into a bit more than we had originally planned.

 After a brief reminder of the procedures for passing rebelays, we left the café and headed up to the parking spot near the entrance. Once changed we headed into Knotlow cavern via the ‘Climbing Shaft’. I rigged the route in followed by Loz, then Rich and Mark, with Andy G bringing up the rear. Andy G was the only member of the group who had been in the system before and he had already said that we would most likely get wet on the final pitch into waterfall chamber. When I got to the pitch head I decided that if I rigged all of the bolts into a traverse line I could rig the route so we descended clear of the water. But this could present quite a challenge to the other group members as they would need to traverse a long way out on their cows tails before being able to clip into the rope down the pitch. I decided that this would be possible for this group as we were all fairly fit (or fitter than average) and so I rigged the pitch and then returned to the pitch head and waited for the others to join me. I explained that this would be challenging and then demonstrated how to move along the traverse line and descended. With Andy G at the pitch head giving moral and motivational support (I could only just make out the occasional word of shouting over the noise of the waterfall) the other three joined me. We briefly talked about how to reverse the process and Mark volunteered to de-rig the pitch back up. The movement across the traverse line was smoother heading back and we then all headed back out of the cavern.

Andy G took the brunt of the weather by descending into Knotlow last and so I lead out first into a windy but sunny Saturday afternoon. I jumped into my survival bag and ate my sandwiches waiting for the others to get out and then we all headed over to Hillocks.

 We utilised Andy G and his experience to set up a mini exchange trip and so he lead through the oil drum entrance into hillocks with Mark and Rich and I descended down Whalf Pipe Climbing Shaft with Loz. We met up in the main shaft and then had a brief squirrel around before Andy and I reversed our way back out of the system but with the other group members. Rich was feeling the physicality of the SRT work and Mark again volunteered to de-rig on our way out. Loz followed Andy G out through the oil drum entrance and Mark and Rich headed with me back up Whalf Pipe Climbing Shaft. Once out and changed at the cars we headed back into Monyash to the pub for a well earned pint. Mark and Rich enjoyed the exposure to SRT in a cave environment and I am sure that this is only the first of many future vertical caving trips. Loz expressed a keen interest in having a go at rigging some SRT pitches in the future so all in all everyone had a good trip.

I must thank Andy G for his support which made it possible for us to push the group a bit harder and I am sure he enjoyed the trip as well as he got to shout at some novices in a different environment from the mill!!

With the Gapping Ghyll winch meet coming up I would encourage all of the club members to give SRT a go and make the most of training on the mill. Being proficient in SRT can open up more potential caves to be explored especially in areas like the Yorkshire dales. Andy G and I will always help any novices who want to give it a go and I am always willing to go out and rig any caves for other club members who want to use ropes but don’t feel confident in rigging.

 Cavers present: Andy Kempster, Loz Appleby, Mark Burgess, Rich Gibbons and Andy Grimes

 Trip report by Andy Kempster

Sunday 22 March 2015

A long walk to Carreg Lem

We decided to make the most of the fine weather on Sunday to take a walk and have a look at Ogof Carreg Lem. The cave is located a few hundred metres north of Sinc Y Giedd which makes this quite a walk in from the carpark at Dan Yr Ogof. We set off on the 4km walk taking a scenic route to pick up a few cave features as we headed up the mountain and then round to the large shakehole the cave in located in. The entrance was uncovered and we made our way one by one down through the massive boulders of the entrance choke. The cave was remarkably dry with only a small trickle of water passing through the choke. The long flat ceiling of the large entrance chamber was covered with thousands of water droplets giving the effect of a starry sky above you. We first explored the two branches of the left hand series, but found that Mark was the only one who could post his legs around a very tight corner in one of the passages. We waited for him to report back that this ended at a crawl under a massive boulder propped up by sand. We then took a few photos in the entrance chamber before heading off down the main right hand series. This was followed past some extensive digs to find a flat out crawl Mark and Jess both tried to get through, but was going to need a little digging to get us through, so was left for another day.

Entrance Chamber - Ogof Carreg Lem
Jess in the Entrance Chamber - Ogof Carreg Lem (Photo - Brendan Marris)

Entrance Chamber - Ogof Carreg Lem
Jess in the Entrance Chamber - Ogof Carreg Lem (Photo - Mark Burkey)

Entrance Chamber - Ogof Carreg Lem
Jess in the Entrance Chamber - Ogof Carreg Lem (Photo - Brendan Marris)

Entrance Chamber - Ogof Carreg Lem
Jess in the Entrance Chamber - Ogof Carreg Lem (Photo - Brendan Marris)

We headed back via a slightly different route taking a look at Sinc Y Giedd and Pwll Dwfn on the way.

Present: Mark Burkey, Jess Burkey and Brendan Marris

Saturday 21 March 2015

The Waterfall Series. A Heavenly Caving Trip In Ogof Draenen

Brendan had mentioned a couple of times that he fancied going back to visit the 'Waterfall Series' in Ogof Draenen. An area of the cave he hadn't visited for several years.
Tony and Rob had expressed an interest in the trip and Jess and I liked the sound of it so our team of five was formed.
Brendan arrived at ours trying that old chestnut of he'd forgotten his wellies, but I was having none of it and produced a spare pair for him ;)
 We met up at Luigi's for breakfast with Rob and Tony before heading off to Pwll Du where we kitted up in sunshine for a change.
The entrance series was drier than I've seen before on my previous visits and it made the crawl in almost pleasant.
We soon dropped through the rift and made our way down the 4m roped climb to Cairn Junction. Here we headed left, past Big Bang Pitch, and over the choked boulders in to walking passage with the occasional crawl.
 This turns in to a rift and deteriorates in size until becoming an awkward thrutch through to the foot of an overhanging roped climb next to an inlet.
I went up first trying not to look at the rusted mallion and then rigged our ladder to drop down for the others.
We continued on through the stream passage until reaching another dubious looking rope climb which I popped up whilst the ladder was retrieved from the first pitch.
With everyone up we were rewarded with some very delicate gypsum formations at the end of Outcast Passage. Carefully we made our way past following the passage to a climb up on the right were the going became mostly crawling.
 At one junction we squirrelled around at multilevel before continuing past a dig bucket and up through an awkward squeeze on an uphill slope to more of the same.
Eventually we entered a stooping rift and a couple of traverses before finally being able to stand upright again in Knees Up Mother Brown. We continued along this impressive flat roofed phreatic passage to its junction with Lost river passage and on to 6th Heaven where I could wait no longer and opened up the camera box to take in the beautiful aragonite formations.
Our exit was laid back due to Brendan wanting to take a couple of choice photographs and me wanting to photograph everything! We exited to a twilight sky with not a sign of hail, snow or gail force winds (for a change!) and finished the days adventures with a couple of drinks in the Lamb and Fox Inn.

Tony and Rob in 6th Heaven Chamber (Photo Mark Burkey)
Jess admires the aragonite formations (Photo Mark Burkey)
Jess in 'Knees Up Mother Brown' (Photo Brendan Marris)
Gypsum Flowers (Photo Mark Burkey)

Jess In Outcast Passage (Photo Mark Burkey)

Looking to the Big Bang Pitch (Photo Brendan Marris)

Present: Rob Campbell, Tony Ferran, Jess Burkey, Mark Burkey & Brendan Marris

Saturday 14 March 2015

Pork Pies For Lunch In The Mendips

Not strictly a Dudley trip as this was arranged be Claire Vivian for us as SWCC members. It was a trip I had been looking forward to for some time and when places were offered up through South Wales Caving Club I contacted claire asking to put our names down. 
We started the day with a Priddy good breakfast before Chloe and Jess headed off for a trip in to Reservoir Hole, whilst Myself Keith and Brendan went to Meet our leader for Upper Flood at the MCG hut. 
After a brief introduction to Tarn, our guide for the day, we changed and headed down the lane to the cave entrance. The entrance series consists of lots of crawling before reaching the rather moist lavatory trap, canal and puddle lake. After these you arrive at the Red room which spells the end of the crawls through water and spells the start of the infamous boulder choke. I was aware that there used to be a squeeze box test to see if you could fit through the tight contortions of the boulder choke and nervously followed the others in to the twists and turns. Fortunately nothing seemed too tight until........ We were chatting to Tarn about the squeeze box and she mentioned that there used to be a rather tight squeeze, but a bypass had been made to it. Keith wanted to do the old route through the boulders and followed as Tarn led through a tight letterbox. I stupidly said I wanted to give it a go and after huffing, puffing, turning this way and that decided that the bypass was the only way I was going to get to the end of the cave. From the other side I could manage to force myself up through the letterbox, but not without bruising a couple of ribs which would be tender for the rest of the weekend :/ 
Exiting the choke we were told to make sure we didn't follow the choke in to a passageway named 'Call The Samaritans' which judging by the name wasn't something we really wanted to encounter! From here the going became easier again and we were soon heading through Royal Icing Passage before having to strip off our over suits and clean our boots and gloves in stream way. From this point everything we climbed a brilliant white calcite flow in to Pork Pie Passage where the stunning formations are some of the most pristine white I have seen. 
We each took it in turns to flat out crawl under formations to take in the very unusual and beautiful Pork Pie Formations before I pulled out my camera to take a shot or two of the calcite flows. 
Unfortunately I had a flash gun fail after the first couple of shots which was probably just as well as Tarn announced that she had an appointment in Oxford so had only put 4pm on our callout (Still...a good excuse to re-visit some time)
It had taken 3 hours to get to this point and we now had just 2hrs to do the reverse. The exit from the cave was something of a blur as we all picked up the pace. Tarn was like a whippet back through the choke and even grabbed both Keith's bag and my Box to slow herself enough so the rest of us could keep up with her! We exited on time though in to a very chilled afternoon and were glad of the warm showers back at the MCG hut. 
We said our goodbye's to Tarn and thanked her for the trip before heading in to Priddy to meet up with the girls and grab a meal at the Queen Victoria.

Keith in Pork Pie Passage
The Pork Pie Formations

Present: Keith Edwards, Brendan Marris & Mark Burkey

Sunday 8 March 2015

Caving Under a White Moon on the Black Mountain

After a slightly delayed start we drove to Herbert's Quarry, changed in the driving rain and then trudged across the mountain to Foel Fraith. After about 50 minutes we arrived at the tiny shakehole that contains the entrance and after removing the cover descended the very short entrance drop to enter a comfortable crawl that rapidly turned to a rift passage and reached the head of a pitch. We only needed one ladder as it was shorter than described in write-ups and descending it we landed on a large pile of enormous boulders in an impressive passage. This choked quickly both ways, but a route led off on the left down a pile of boulders. This led into a tall passage that reached a rock pillar at a T junction. This was a loop route and we dropped the gear and completed the loop passing the drop down to the Lower Series. Grabbing the gear we dropped down the rifty tube rigging a short ladder for the last 3m which drops into open passage. We then headed off to explore all the passages in the Lower Series, heading down into some unpleasant tubes and crawls, to ensure that nothing was missed. One route was nearly the undoing of us as we came upon a squeeze that was not very tight but certainly awkward. We struggled getting through, but hey these things are always easier going back aren't they? This one was certainly not and we really had to fight going back through.
Some photos were taken in the lower series before we headed back up to find the turning to the 21m high Canyon Passage with an impressive choke and natural rock bridge at the end.

Lower Series - Ogof Dan Y Lleuad Wen
Mark in the Lower Series - Ogof Dan Y Lleuad Wen

Lower Series - Ogof Dan Y Lleuad Wen
Mark in the Lower Series - Ogof Dan Y Lleuad Wen

Lower Series - Ogof Dan Y Lleuad Wen
Mark at the Lower Series climb - Ogof Dan Y Lleuad Wen

After all our exploring of the smaller passages and tubes we were running low on time and made our exit with a couple of areas still left to explore another time.

Present: Mark Burkey and Brendan Marris

Saturday 7 March 2015

Four Musketeers in Cwm Dwr

We arrived at SWCC to find it almost abandoned a kind of missed the boat feeling.

I did think that we wouldn't be able to get underground but fortunately Brendan had arrived and was able to get us sorted out.

We headed off for Cwm Dwr well I did the other guys headed down the wrong path and I stood n watched with amusment until the penny dropped.

Once in we quickly dencended the pipe and headed on to the boulder choke. From hearing that this is the infamous place where most cavers get lost we
brought a secret weapon with us.....plant labels an idea Jess gave me beforehand all in all this proved invaluable.

Once through the choke and into big shacks it was a case of route finding from here on and with the help of the survey we split up into twos
and got our bearings of the system as there are many passages and levels to navigate. After meeting back up we made our way down the main passage across the traverse
until we decided to head back as time was getting on. We quickly headed back out through the choke collecting the labels and without hesitation made our way back out to the surface to enjoy
tea and Brendan's malt loaf.

Yet another successful route finding trip with all of us taking it in turns to lead the way.

Trip report: Rich Gibbons

Present. Rich Gibbons Mike Bonner Rob Campbell and Tony Farrell