Thursday 28 May 2015

The Matrix - Dudley Caving Club Takes Training Seriously!

In Dudley Caving Club we take caver training very seriously and our training officer runs an exceedingly tight ship with regular training sessions, practices and assessments of capability, based on the feared and dreaded ’Training Matrix’.
This short video shows a typical evening’s training at Dudley Caving Club's HQ. Watch it to find out the answers to such questions as, will Mark pass his rigging assessment, who can’t tie an Alpine Butterfly and what’s limiting our ability to carry out even more training? There’s laughter and tears as the team are put through their paces by our no nonsense training officer, Andy.

Cast in order of appearance: Keith Edwards, Brian McDaid, Andy Grimes, Pete Anstey, Ian Millward, Mark Burgess, Mark Burkey and Jess Burkey

Sunday 24 May 2015

County Pot to Wretched Rabbit - Easegill Trip

The non-SRT plan for Sunday was a County Pot to Wretched Rabbit through trip. This would allow us to sort out the navigation around this area of the cave and open up longer trips and through trips in the future. We met up in the Clapham carpark at 10am, the later start being a relief after the previous day. We then headed off to Bullpot Farm, where we changed and headed off for our separate trips. The plan was for a through trip, but rigged with ladders so if we failed to find our way through we could return the way we went in. A 40 minute walk over the fell took us to the entrance to County Pot where we descended and we soon found ourselves at the top of the first pitch. This was already rigged for SRT, we rigged our ladder as we would need to return if we could not find our way through. After rigging the ladder for a possible return we abseiled down and then reached the climb down into Broadway, from here we headed right into Showerbath passage and then headed downstream to eventually emerge in Spout Hall, another landmark I had remembered. From here we headed downstream with a short section of crawling in the stream to emerge in a wider taller passage with Poetic Justice cunningly hidden on the right. This provided half an hour of entertainment as one by one we fought our way up it. Once all past this obstacle we followed the bedding plane crawl to reach the top of the next pitch. This was rigged already for SRT and again we rigged our ladder just in case we failed to complete our planned route. Again we abseiled down and we found ourselves in a good sized passage. We headed downstream and quickly at a point where we recognised Wretched Rabbit coming in from the right, we now knew we could complete the through trip and felt a little happier. A short section of crawling brought us down to Eureka Junction where we decided to briefly split up. Chloe and Lucy headed to Stop Pot while Mike and Brendan returned the short distance to derig the second ladder. The derigging was completed quickly and the ladder and lifeline packed in the bag, which was dropped off at the end of Wretched Rabbit. We then headed to meet the girls just emerging from the Stop Pot choke. Time now dictated that we make our exit and so we headed up the unrelenting rifty Wretched Rabbit Passage. The tackle bag proved to be a bit of a pain, but was shared around and within no time we were at the bottom of the roped climbs. These were all climbed quickly and we emerged into brilliant sunshine a couple of hundred metres upstream of County Pot. All that remained was for Mike and Brendan to whizz down the first section of County Pot to de-rig the ladder and then head back to Bullpot Farm.

Present: Chloe Burney, Mike Bonner, Lucy Collins and Brendan Marris.

Bull Pot of the Witches

To compliment the DCC Yorkshire Winch Meet I volunteered to lead an SRT trip on the Sunday for anyone who fancied it and chose to tackle Bull Pot of the Witches. The group was made up of Me Loz and Mark (Burgess) from DCC with Mark Carney (North Wales) and Lucy & Sam (sponging freeloaders). I had looked at the survey for this cave and the rigging guide and although this was billed as an SRT trip many of the reports talked about ‘free climbing’ most of the routes.

The rigging guide outlined three pitches: one short ascent into the main pot, a final short descent into the streamway at the bottom of the pot, and a short pitch between the two linking different passages. All required only short rope lengths (max 30 metres) and minimal rigging, but the route described nearly 3 km of passages so we would be in for a fun day exploring.

We changed at the Bull Farm hut and walked the short path down to the open pot. There were 2 possible ways into the system, a pitch down into the open shaft or a chimney pitch down to the same level via a short tight shaft. We split into two teams of three and Sam rigged the main pitch with Lucy and Loz; and I went with Mark B and Mark C into the chimney and mark B rigged our route in (his first attempt at rigging under ground). When we all met up in the bottom of the pot Sam headed down to rig the second pitch and the rest of us regrouped to explore ‘chamber 32’ which was through a low crawl off from the bottom of the chimney route in.

The crawl led through to an impressive chamber that according to the route guide linked through to the rest of the cave by descending through a dangerous loose choke so we explored around the chamber and looked at the possible options for a descent but then headed back to the bottom of the open pitch to get our bearings. This was to be the theme of the day – squirreling off down a labyrinth of passages exploring a variety of route options and trying to squeeze through as many tight spots as possible.

We shouted down to Sam that we were heading off to explore around Robert’s passage so once he rigged the second pitch he returned back to the top and followed us as we explored the different options. The two Marks headed down to a very tight section near where we thought the Gour pools should be and Me and Loz headed in the opposite direction until we came to a junction. I went left and Loz went right and after squirming through a short section I found the base of the second pitch. The rest of the group joined us and we all then headed of down the route Loz had taken to find many more chambers and passages leading to a final aven with an in situ rope.

I ascended the rope and followed a short passage to a loose choke ascent and decided to head back to the rest of the group as this was not a very safe option. We split into two again and Sam, Lucy and Mark B headed to the foot of the second pitch whilst I went back to the base of the open pot with Mark C and Loz to collect our gear. We then headed down the ropes of the second pitch to meet up with the others who were already by now in the bottom of the stream passage having rigged the third pitch, and were exploring the wet and wetter options of heading to the terminal sump (unless you have diving equipment of course) or a restricted airspace crawl to another sump.

Whilst I was waiting for Sam and Mark B to explore the options I noticed a possible option of a route through into a higher passage that was dry and appeared to follow the same orientation as the lower streamway. The dry option was selected as the next area to explore and once we were all in the passage we again split into two and headed off to explore in opposite directions with a cut off time to return and tell the others what each group had found. I went with Lucy and Loz up the slightly angled slope until things got a bit too tight and then we explored a hole in the ground with a tantalising sling and etrier hanging from a bolt above it. I tried to descend it gracefully but was caught up with all my SRT kit on and we then headed back to the others. We then swapped directions and Loz decided to go with the others to see if one of them could get down to explore the other passage we had found. Lucy and I headed down to the other end of the passage and we were disappointed as the ‘burger van’ that Sam had said he had seen must have just gone!

Sam, Mark B and Loz descended through the hole into the lower passage and had a good look around but time was not on our side so we all headed back up using the ropes to the bottom of the open pot where we decided to have a last attempt at finding the gour pools. We looked all over but we couldn’t find the right passage through even with mark stripped down of his SRT kit we couldn’t find the chamber. Although mark said that he did get into a very tight ascending tube that appeared to open into a larger chamber as he could here his voice echoing but he decided that it was too tight and so he sacked it.

We ascended out of the pot and de rigged the ropes with Mark B demonstrating how hard it is to ascend ropes using a croll without a chest harness (a victim of his final attempt in the last squeeze). We were met as we were regrouping at the top of the pot by Brendan and Mike who said that they were surprised to find our cars still at the hut when they had got back from their trip.

This was a great trip, and one of my personal favourites with DCC, as none of us had been in the system before and so we all contributed equally to the route finding and exploring. It definitely felt like we were exploring a cave and this trip has certainly raised more questions than answers. Loz and Mark B have already expressed a wish to return with the aim of spending longer underground to get to the bottom of this pot, and to possibly recover Marks chest harness!

BPOTW, we’ll be back!

Trip Report: Andy Kempster

Present: Mark Burgess, Loz Appleby, Mark Carney, Lucy Kempster, Sam Owen and Andy Kempster.

Saturday 23 May 2015

Gaping Gill Winch Meet - Flood Pot to Bar Pot and an explore

We had arranged an early start as we knew the winch became very busy as the day went on, so everyone except Loz had driven up to Yorkshire the night before. Loz managed to surprise us all by arriving no less than 10 minutes early at the Yorkshire Ramblers Club where we were staying. We consolidated into 2 cars and parked at the Clapham car park to start the long walk up the hill. Upon reaching the top of the hill we split into 2 groups. Brendan, Mike, and Lucy queued for the
winch while Loz, Marc, Mark and myself were abseiling into Wade's (Flood) entrance. However first I had to find somewhere to get changed as I didn't fancy stripping off in the amphitheater filled with public waiting for the winch, so I was naturally drawn to the cover of the Bradford beer tent!
Our SRT group headed back down the hill a short way and popped into Wade's entrance. The first pitch was a simple descent down a rift with a single re-belay which caused no issues for anyone. This was followed by a fair amount of awkward passage to get to the top of the very short second pitch which again caused no problems. A short crawl over a bedding plane led to the third pitch followed by a climb down a cascade using a handline.
I headed down the forth and final pitch, passing a re-belay without issue, only to find a hanging re-belay where we had expected to find a deviation. I had led the descent with Mark behind me so I could talk him through anything tricky as it was only his second SRT trip. However as I was so preoccupied with getting myself unclipped from my cows-tails after threading my stop onto the new rope, that I managed to make the rookie mistake of abseiling down the wrong side of the
loop of rope! Mark obviously learned valuable lessons from my example, as I had to do some interesting acrobatics with my legs flailing in the air to get my body over the correct side of the rope, much to Mark's amusement! Fortunately nobody else made the same mistake as me and we were all soon stood firmly on the bottom of the pitch. We had arranged to meet the winch group at the bottom of the main chamber so headed off down the crawls only to meet them half way through coming towards us. We decided to investigate Sand Caverns followed by Mud Pot and the Northwest Extension. The mud in this area was so thick that not only did it pull our wellies off, it made a good attempt at pulling poor Lucy's leg off! After having fun in the mud, we popped up to Stream Passage as this was originally one of our
possible exit routes, and we took the opportunity to rinse off some of the mud in the waterfall.
We then went to the main chamber where we took some time just looking in awe at the huge shaft above us. Once seeing the winch, Marc and I immediately decided it looked like fun, leaving just Loz and Marc to SRT back out. They had picked to go back out of Bar Pot so we escorted them to the foot of the pitch and even arranged a chaperone called Sally to assist with the navigation. Brendan, Marc, Mike, Lucy and myself headed back to the main chamber to join a rather long queue for the winch. Mike and I filled a little of the time by handing out hot Ribena to the public huddled in plastic ponchos like we were running a soup kitchen for the homeless. Mark and Loz had made the ascent much faster than we could get up the winch and were waiting to greet us as we came out of the top. The walk back down the hill seemed very short in comparison to the way up in the morning, and we were back at the bunkhouse having hot showers and food before we knew it!

Trip Report: Chloe Burney

Present: Brendan Marris, Lucy Collins, Mike Bonner, Loz Appleby, Marc Carney, Mark Burgess and Chloe Burney.

Sunday 17 May 2015

A Priddy Good Trip In To Reservoir Hole For The Captains Number 1 Fan

As all of us at Dudley know, Keith is 'Captain' Chris Bindings Number 1 fan, so it was hardly surprising that when a chance to visit Reservoir Hole, on a trip led by Mr. Binding, came up Keith was the first to sign up.

We started our day with a Priddy good breakfast at the farm shop. Keith wouldn't sit still throughout breakfast and I just knew that there was a chance that he was going to be a very naughty boy if he didn't learn to contain his excitement, so he was sent to the little boys room whilst I sorted my kit out of the van and in to Brendan's car.

The girls were off to have a play in Balch Cave, so we waved them off with instructions to meet us in the gorge at 4pm with cake ;)

We arrived on time to find Mr Binding already changing...Keith began bouncing on his chair and Brendan had to give him a very stern look before he calmed down enough to let him out of the car.
We swiftly changed and made our way up to the entrance, this is a very unassuming metal plate that gives no inkling of the size of passage that lay below.

We made our way through to moon milk chamber, Topless Aven (Again Keith was restrained from stripping off and shouting 'Chris, Chris......I'm topless too........!!!') and up Golgotha Rift.

Brendan lit the rift from below whilst Keith, Chris and Myself climbed up to the decorated ledge to marvel at the view.
On our way back down Chris explained the safest way down a climb, but Keith shouted 'look at me Chris', and Tarzan swung down, bouncing around at Mr Binding's feet.

On we went crawling down slope to the pitch head where we rigged a couple of ladders and were confronted with the awesome Frozen Deep.
I hadn't realised until we were on our way to the cave, but Brendan had forgone taking his camera on this occasion and loaded his peli-case with flashguns in anticipation of the spectacular chamber.
We took a couple of shots of the rift section before continuing through the lower section of the chamber. Chris was great, not only a font of knowledge throughout the trip, but the way he handled Mr Edwards was nothing short of Saintly.
Again I was allowed on our way out to take a shot or two of the formations before we headed back up the pitch and made our way back to daylight.
Mr Binding made some excuse about having to get off, Brendan and I exchanged a knowing glance as we watched Keith waving his idol off. Just then the girls turned up with cake as promised.

As I got in to the van I could hear Keith in the front of Brendan's car chattering away.......Chris said this, Chris said that, My mate Chris said............Poor Brendan, it must have been a very long journey home for him ;)

Present: Keith Edwards, Brendan Marris, Mark Burkey & The Great Chris Binding

All Photo's Lit by Flashguns Supplied by Mr Brendan Marris

Saturday 16 May 2015

Upper Flood Swallet

After finishing working in Wales at Midnight the day before Jess and I were looking forward to being up at 7am to get down to the Mendips for our outing in Upper Flood......not.
Our mood wasn't helped by a bouncy Chloe turning up bright and breezy looking forward to her outing. We stopped off en route for coffee and pastries to help wake us up and made good time getting to the MCG hut where we were to meet our leader for the day, Jude.
We quickly changed and made our way to the unassuming entrance. The trip in was far more leisurely than my first 3 1/2 hour sprint through and at this pace I began to relax and enjoy the sporty nature of the entrance series. At the old squeeze in the boulder choke Chloe and Jess had a slide through...I still remembered the bruising on my ribs from the last time I pushed through, so decided to take the bypass this time. On our way through to Neverland we stripped off our over suits and took a trip to see the stunning curtain at the ladder climb. On our way up to Neverland we all emitted the customary oohs and aahs as the beautiful white calcite came in to view. Even though I had been before I couldn't help but join in the vocal appreciation. Jude was kind enough to allow me time to take a few quick shots before we begun to chill down and headed back to put our suits back on. We soon warmed up as we headed back through Royal Icing Junction, Plank Chamber and Duck Under Boss. I took advantage of this to take my photographic objective of the trip, a chamber shot of The Departure Lounge. With this objective met we made our way back through the Choke and were soon making our way back up the tube to a reasonably warm and sunny afternoon. Back at the MCG we warmed ourselves with a quick shower, thanked Jude for a great trip and headed back toward Priddy for our, now customary, Butcombe pie at the Queen Vic.


The Departure Lounge

Present: Chloe Burney, Jess Burkey, Mark Burkey and many thanks to our leader Jude.

Sunday 10 May 2015

Speed Caving - Ogof Pont Gam to Ogof Nant Rhin

After much deliberating we decided on a plan to complete an Ogof Pont Gam to Ogof Nant Rhin through trip. We had visited Ogof Pont Gam twice before, but never exited via Nant Rhin, so the aim of the day was to complete the through trip. We packed the tackle into two small kit bags knowing that we would never get a full sized bag through Pont Gam. We met with Keith and Jess at Luigis before making our way around to the old Heads of the Valleys road. We parked up and changed further down the road and then called at the house opposite when the resident arrived to check for permission. After a few bits of surface video we entered the hole and made our way through the cave. The pitches had been re-bolted and there were ropes that looked OK in place, though we rigged with our own ropes that we had brought along. The short climb between the first and second pitches was rigged with a handline too. We fought our way to the top of the Third Pitch and descended into Aven D'Oznog. Dropping off our SRT kit we then went through Ogof Nant Rhin to exit into the gorge. It took a considerable amount of motivation to force ourselves back into the cave to complete the return journey. Some navigational difficulties followed on the return through Nant Rhin with half the group missing the climb up to Pont Gam branch and so explored the full delights of Nant Rhin. When all had assembled in Aven D'Oznog we headed back up the ropes derigging and taking video as we went.

The Video

A very short but also quite testing trip.

Present: Keith Edwards, Mark Burkey, Jess Burkey, Chloe Burney and Brendan Marris

Saturday 9 May 2015

Dan Yr Ogof - Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining

This trip was to serve several purposes. Firstly a navigation trip for Chloe to verify the routes were firmly cemented, a treat for Carl as he had not visited the cave before and finally a chance to pool a good number of flashguns to have a go at a large chamber shot. There had been a good deal of rain and on entering the lakes water levels were close to the limit of safe passage. We had a rather moist passage through the lakes and fought our way up the cascades. We took a standard route through the 1937 Series pausing only once on the way in to watch Lavatory Dan in full flow. Carl videoed through the Long Crawl including an interesting manoeuvre where we passed over Carl in the crawl. We headed through the high level series first, stopping off at Cloud Chamber to take a couple of photos (with 8 flashguns in total). Now cooled down we headed through the Green Canal and then onwards to the Rising including a couple of detours to look in Bog Passage and Surprise Chamber. We then returned through the Lower Series passing some rather wet sections to return to Gerrard Platten Hall. A quick return to Cloud Chamber then followed to pick up the camera gear before we headed out of the cave.

Cloud Chamber - Dan Yr Ogof
Cloud Chamber - Dan Yr Ogof

Cloud Chamber - Dan Yr Ogof
Cloud Chamber - Dan Yr Ogof

Present: Mark Burkey, Chloe Burney, Carl Knott, Brendan Marris

Sunday 3 May 2015

No Fairies on this trip! Fairy cave to Hillier's Through Trip.

On the Saturday we had been into Wetsink in the Forest of Dean but, after spending a night in a field in heavy rain, we decided we fancied a change of scenery and headed over the Severn for a day in the Mendips. We arrived in time for a Priddy Good breakfast and trundled off to Fairy Caves Quarry to get changed. I had liked the sound of the Fairy Cave to Hillier’s through trip since reading about it a number of months ago, and the Burkey’s had popped into Hillier’s recently and decided it was a ‘Chloe kind of cave’ and so a plan was hatched. We jumped into the cave entrance and went squirreling off in various directions to find the way on. Mark checked high and Jess and I checked low. After poking our heads into various muddy slippery holes, we admitted defeat and quickly ran back to the van to have a quick read of the description. The way on turned out to be a flat out crawl under a slab up in one of the higher level chambers we had looked in originally. We stopped for a ‘quick’ photo before I took the lead and carried on through the cave. I took much delight in scrambling over boulders and crawling through the puddles until we came to the connection squeeze. On their previous visit to these caves, Mark had politely declined to go through the eyelet squeeze from the Hillier’s side (Wussed out!) scaring himself by following Jess the wrong way through drop out rift and watching a YouTube video of another caver getting a little stuck! It turned out there was no reason at all for Mark to be such a fairy as he flew through it as fast as Jess and me. I carried on in front of the group through Hillier’s with a huge grin on my face as they had been very right when they thought it was a ‘Chloe cave’. After a short time the smile was temporarily wiped from my face as I had to cross a small traverse to the right to explore the rest of the cave, left went to the entrance series. Mark told me it was a very linear cave and couldn’t go wrong so I shot off ahead. I perhaps took him a little literally when he said ‘linear’ as at a junction I opted for the tight smooth rift in front of me rather than going up over the boulders to our left. Lay on my side, half way through the awkward 8ft rift section I turned back to Mark to ask if I was going the correct way. His reply was ‘well it looks like the way on’. Of course they didn’t follow me as it was only the way on to some small straws and some more flat out crawling over slippery mud. On the way back through the tight rift, I lost my wellie, at which point Mark said ‘oh it’s all coming back to me now’ and recalled that it wasn’t the way on and he had also lost his wellie coming back through the same section. Helpful! After showing that given 2 choices of direction in a cave I always seem to pick the wrong one, Mark took the lead and took us though the remainder of Hillier’s, through the Suicide Choke to the Red Room. On the way back through the choke, I lost sight of Jess ahead of me and once again dived a little too enthusiastically down the wrong hole. Jess retraced her steps after my shouts for assistance, to find just my toes poking out of a hole and me facing at a 45 degree angle into the floor without sufficient room to turn around. I found lying on my chest suffocating so rolled onto my back, only to scare myself as the huge boulder above me appeared to be defying the laws of gravity! After several careful minutes of bottom wiggling and Jess pulling on my feet, I was back on the right track. The remainder of the trip was thankfully uneventful and before I knew it we were out at the cars, eating cakes!
The last undamaged grotto in Fairy cave.

Trip Report Chloe Burney

Present: Mark Burkey, Jess Burkey & Chloe Burney

Saturday 2 May 2015

Dogging in the Forest of Dean

We begun our weekend with breakfast in Coleford before heading to the camp site to meet up with the others.

Ian and Rich were joining Emma, Bartek and Paulina on a trip in to Old Ham.

Chloe, Brendan, Myself and Jess would be heading in to Wet sink / Slaughter stream and would leave the pitches rigged as Emma's team would be heading in on the Sunday.

Brendan was going to cave in his birthday suit, but apparently it was still a little sticky.....I am of course referring to his new Warmbac which he has prepped the stitching with aqua sure. So in his recently repaired AV he announced we would be going dogging that morning, more specifically to see the dog's skeleton in Dogs grave passage in Wet Sink.

We dropped down the 3 fixed entrance ladders and were soon rigging Balcony pitch with a 7m ladder. PenPot pitch was rigged with two 10m ladders and a 50m lifeline which turned out to be a little excessive as the first 10m ladder would just about reach the balcony at the base of the pitch and could be free climbed from there.
After the pitches there are 30m of cobbled crawls before emerging at the slaughter stream cross junction. We headed upstream to Zurree Aven and climbed the waterfalls through to the Graveyard. Passing through Gnome Garden we entered the Chunnel and headed in to the sand crawls that would take us through the three deserts section. Emerging at Vittals we popped in to flow choke passage to an unstable choke which took us to Hall Passage. Here the plan had been to drop through a hole in the floor (Normans Invasion) but after putting a body length in I wasn't 100% sure I would fit through and didn't fancy wedging in the tight rift when there was an easy route to the same place. Chloe took a quick look at the rift, but as the last couple of meters to the ground bells out, decided to also take a look from the other side. Backtracking we entered in to Dogs Grave Passage past paw prints and on to the skeleton of said unfortunate mut. We found the other side of the drop down and had a little play to see if it was possible to drop through. Everyone had a little giggle as I forced my chest up the rift standing on Jess's shoulders with my gut hanging over my belt below ;)
We continued on to the pig trough camp site where Brendan and Chloe made use of the bed rolls whilst Jess and I popped over the traverses to check the route for a future trip to the Snow Garden. On the way out we took a couple of photo's and exited in plenty of time to head back in to Coleford for 80's music and Tapas!

Pen Pot Pitch
Gnome garden

Three Deserts Passage
Now that's what I call a post caving meal!!!

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