Saturday 25 July 2015

Cwm Dwr II - The Wrong Dig

Regular rain showers had kept the Brickworks Dig topped up with water, and with only enough people available for one days digging we had sought out an alternative site to work on, as most of our time would be spent dealing with the water at the Brickworks. We chose an old site in Cwm Dwr II, and after arranging permissions with the OFD Management Committee and Natural Resources Wales we were able to give this location some attention. There had once been a short sump in the entrance series to this cave - Helen's Horror which had to be syphoned to gain access, but this was removed some time ago and now is no more than a short wet crawl.

We entered the cave and rigged the 10m pitch down into Default Chamber. It is here that a slope leads up to a 20m long sandy passage that leads to the Sand Sump. The sand had previously been dug and only a small access crawl led through to what was once a body sized sump which had now silted up somewhat.

Keith in the sandy passage that approaches the Sand Sump

A view of the sump at the start of the dig with bucket for scale

A close-up view of the sump at the start of the dig

To work the dig efficiently we removed the sand fill on the approach to the sump, clearing it from the sides and lowering the floor by 30-50cm. After a couple of hours and 40 buckets of spoil removed we had good access to the sump and we could now start draining it. Only a small part was visible of this perched reservoir, we expected to drain it fairly quickly, bailing it with buckets. After 100 buckets of water had been removed and the water level only dropping a few inches we decided on a Plan B. Brendan went back up the ladder and to Helen's Horror where a long firehose that was once used to syphon off the water could be found. This 40 metre heavy duty hose was brought back to the pitch and then lowered so it could be used to syphon the sump. At first we attempted to start the syphon by sucking on the pipe, but this failed, so Mark headed back up the ladder, the bottom end of the hose hauled up and the 10m head of water was used to fill the hose. Once the hose was full of water, it was dropped to the floor of the chamber where it began to syphon off the water immediately. The flow of water was directed to join the stream and then we returned to the sump. At this point most people went off to explore the cave while Mark and Brendan returned to the sump to monitor progress. It became clear that there was a large volume of water in the passage beyond as the water level very slowly fell. Rather than wait we continued to drop the floor of the approach to the sump. With everyone back at the dig over the next three hours we were able to clear about 40cm depth of sediment from the bottom of the passage over a 4 metre length, following the water as it slowly receded, until after three hours an airspace appeared. A short while later the hose broke the surface of the water and the syphon stopped. The passage is still too silted up to get through at the lowest point. At this point we had removed a further 60 buckets of spoil and were all exhausted and cold and so after all having a look through the airspace to the passage beyond we headed out of the cave knowing that on our next visit we would be in some interesting territory.

Keith at the sump at the end of the days dig

On our next visit we plan to set up the syphon again and drain as much water from the sump as possible. We will continue to remove the infill from the bottom of the sump to give easy access to the passage beyond, where we will be able to assess the future possibilities.

More information on Cwm Dwr II on this link.

Present: Mark Burkey, Keith Edwards, Chloe Burney, Mark Burgess, Ian Millward and Brendan Marris

Sunday 19 July 2015

The Extraordinary League of Gentlemen Cavers

Motivation was low on Sunday morning so after a marathon faffing and procrastination session we decided to visit some of the smaller caves in the vicinity of SWCC. We first went to assess the water levels in the Brickwork's Dig as we had planned a Club dig for the following weekend. We were surprised to find the water level above the cross rift, which would mean it would take a long time to empty the dig and be able to start work. We then headed off to look for a suitable alternative.

Cwm Dwr II

We headed into the Cwm Dwr Quarry to look at Cwm Dwr II a cave that was once difficult to visit as a short sump not far from the entrance had to be emptied to allow visits. About three years ago the sump was removed and so we were able to get in with little more than a crawl through shallow water. We arrived at the pitch into Default Chamber and rigged the 10m ladder and descended the 11m pitch. We looked at a sandy dig at the top of the chamber before heading downstream over long traversing sections to reach the sump. On our way out we went upstream and followed Ping Pong Passage to reach the choke that marks the end of the cave.

Twll Gwynt Oer

We were encouraged by Ian and Peter at the SWCC to go and have a look at Twll Gwynt Oer, a cave dug by Jopo that intersected a streamway that later feeds Cwm Dwr II. We lifted the covers off the cave and dropped down the 3m deep section of lined shaft to reach a concrete plinth. We then dropped through the hatch to reach the top of an 8m deep shaft which we rigged with a ladder to assist the climb down. At the bottom we first headed downstream to eventually reach the sump before retracing our steps and headed upstream to reach a choke with calcite formations. We then made our way out taking photos as we went.

Twll Gwynt Oer
Brendan in Twll Gwynt Oer - Photo Mark Burkey

Twll Gwynt Oer
Brendan in Twll Gwynt Oer - Photo Mark Burkey

Twll Gwynt Oer
Mark in Twll Gwynt Oer - Photo Brendan Marris

Ogof Y Dynion - Gent's Dig

We then walked across to Gents Dig - Ogof Dynion, passing the site of Zach's Dig as we went. The entrance to Zach's Dig has now been filled over as it was connected with Gent's Dig in 2006. After some trouble with the lock on the entrance to Gent's, we lifted the lid and descended the large concrete lined shaft to enter the cave. At the bottom a railway line led off, tempting us to follow, but it came to an abrupt end just around a corner. We then headed down a small descending passage just below the entrance which passed round a tight corner to emerge at the top of a short free climb with handline in-situ. We were now greeted with clean washed rock in the bottom of a wet weather inlet and overlooking a 6m pitch down into large passage below. We rigged the ladder and lifeline before descending and exploring the passages in the lower level. After exploring all the passages, apart from a tight awkward section that leads and connects to the passages of Zach's Dig we then returned taking some photos as we went.

Ogof Y Dynion - Gent's Dig
Mark in Ogof Y Dynion - Gent's Dig - Photo Brendan Marris

Ogof Y Dynion - Gent's Dig
Mark in Ogof Y Dynion - Gent's Dig - Photo Brendan Marris

Ogof Gwynion 1
Brendan in Ogof Y Dynion - Gent's Dig - Photo Mark Burkey

We emerged after 6pm to find the South Wales Caving Club deserted.

Present: Mark Burkey and Brendan Marris

Saturday 18 July 2015

Ogof Draenen Round Trip - A tale of two halves - well only one really

The Ogof Draenen Round trip is one of the classic caving trips to be undertaken. This is a very long trip with the most challenging bits of navigation at the far reaches of the circuit. I had been taken on this trip by Emma only a few months after starting caving and after 15 years I knew that I would remember little.
And so we set off with bits of Grade II survey and some printed notes giving ourselves 10 hours before call out so we could be free to navigate our way round at leisure. The start of the trip covers standard routes and we set off at a good pace and found our way around to the ladder pitch down at the end of Perseverance II. A new 'Daren style' ladder was located next to the fixed steel ladder complete with a lifeline that only reached halfway down, we decided to use the old ladder and then headed off down Players Tunnel for what was a much longer slog than I had remembered before we emerged at the top of the impressive St Davids Chamber. Here we stayed high and made our way to the start of Squirrel Rifts. The route felt much longer than the distances described in the notes we had and so we spent a long time trying to match passages and junctions to that in the notes. Progress was slow until we reached a junction and all but Chloe went squirrelling off to try and find the way on. Five minutes later a call came back from Chloe proclaiming she had sussed it, as she pointed to an A4 sign on the floor that declared this to be Wooden Spoon Passage and the Round Trip was the passage behind. We soon made our way to a deep climb down and then a low restricted passage at the bottom. As we consulted the notes to check if this was the way to the Haggis Basher Brendan noticed that his watch read 5:30pm. We were a little bemused by where the time had gone to and so we decided that the safest plan was to retrace our steps to make our callout time. We were out in about three hours, picking up our cameras without even time to take a single shot. Once back at the cars and changed Rich proclaimed that his car clock said 6:30pm. Brendans watch had flicked onto another time zone, we could have completed the round trip even allowing for more faffing route finding.
We will return to complete no the bulk of the route finding has been completed.

Present: Mark Burkey, Chloe Burney, Rich Gibbons and Brendan Marris

Sunday 12 July 2015

Who Ate All The Pies?.......This Little Piggy Did The Swildon's Hole Round Trip

For Sunday’s trip we had Myself, Jess, Chloe, and Mark Burgess  in attendance. Ian deciding that one day’s fun was enough for one weekend. 
Our original plan had been a very sedate pootle in Singing River Mine, but as we sat having a Priddy good breakfast other plans were hatched and a Swildon’s round trip was decided upon.

Jess led and we were soon making our way in to a surprisingly dry entrance series to the head of the twenty foot pot where Jess rigged and life lined us down. 
We took Barnes loop in and paused for a quick photo on the way through before heading up Tratman’s Temple where again we stopped for a photo opportunity. Here we stashed the camera gear to speed our progress through the aqueous sections to come.

Jess had no problem navigating through St Paul’s series, Paradise Regained and the Troubles, with only a short navigational blip in St Pauls where she headed for a dig. 
No one had any problems getting up the Greasy Chimney or through the Double troubles.

At the unnamed squeeze I quickly realised that I would need to get back on the diet and had been indeed eating far too many pies of late. With Jess and Mark wedged behind to push off and Chloe ahead to pull they eventually managed to assist me through, though not before I managed to dislocate my toe pushing off the rock. 
On the other side, the Wellie was removed, my first aid training was invoked as I applied traction and popped said big toe back in place. This would prove something of a hindrance as it began to bruise and swell, and the others would keep having to wait for me as I hopped my way up the many cascades.

After sliding down The Landing we got to the Wookie Hole sign where Chloe pointed out sump one to an unsure looking Mark Burgess. Somehow we had managed to neglect to tell him there would be a short free dive on the trip. Although a little uncertain he plunged through with no bother.

Fortunately for me we exited in time for  a couple of pints (purely medicinal) of Pot Holer in the beer tents before heading off. 

I once said on another trip report that this trip requires both guts and determination, though a little less gut would ensure a much easier trip......back on the diet for me! 

Mark Burgess in Barne's Loop

Jess and Chloe at Tratman's Temple

Present: Jess Burkey, Mark Burgess, Chloe Burney and Mark Burkey

Saturday 11 July 2015

Fairy Quarry Through Trip

Jess had offered to play buxom bar maid for the Priddy folk festival this year, so I extended an offer out for a couple of trips in the Mendips followed by a couple of beers.
Keith, Chloe, Ian and Mark Burgess joined me on the Saturday for a through trip from Fairy to Hilliers.
Mr E brought his drone to take footage for his latest Dudley epic from the skies, and much fun was had messing around for the opening sequences.
A few stills below give a feel for what is to come, but I won’t give too much away here……’s gonna be awesome!
We……eventually dropped in through the Fairy cave entrance and made our way through the various crawls to the aqueous connection to squeeze in to Hilliers.
Upper Grotto. We continued on through the connection to Cambridge grotto, Brenda’s Chamber and through Suicide Choke to the Red Room. Here I spent a little time playing with my new Macro lens before we headed back out via Tar Hall and the Entrance rift. As we climbed out Keith Spotted some rather large Cave Spiders for me, so out the Macro came again!
A fun trip which looks to have made some great video. I look forward to seeing the finished results!

Proving Chloe is the Apple of Mark's Eye

Meta Menardi Cave Spider

The Good, The Bad & The Dudley

Connecting Squeeze

This Cave Just A'int Big Enough For The Two Of Us!

Present: Keith Edwards, Chloe Burney, Ian Millward, Mark Burgess & Mark Burkey

Sunday 5 July 2015

The Fault with an OFD through trip

For Sunday we had batted around a few ideas, but eventually settled on a through trip from OFD1 to Cwm Dwr with a divertion up to Fault Aven.

There was a note on the board at Penwyllt warning that there had been an issue with the OFD 1 lock lately and so we decided to take Loz’s car down the hill in case we couldn’t get in that way. As it turned out the problem was that the lock splits into two parts when unlocked, rather than an issue opening it.

Because of our planned trip we were each loaded with a kit bag as we headed in. Jess took the lead for the trip to cement the route in her head. OFD1 proved easy going with the water levels very low and we were soon past the stream way, up the choke and making our way through the connection before we knew it. At the Letterbox we tried grabbing the chain and walking up the wall to post ourselves in feet first staring at the ceiling and this worked extremely well. On we went through the crawls, down the Divers Pitch and to the Confluence where again we met a very low main stream way.

At the first river chamber Jess went up first to get the ladder rigged at the pull through. I went up the pitch first and re-rigged to belay the girls up and then off we went to the photographic objective of the day, Fault Aven.

After navigating a rather intimidating traverse around a big hole in the floor I sent the girls off to have a look at the sand blocked rift passage whilst I set up flash guns. We spent a good 20 minutes trying to get a shot before eventually deciding to call it a day and continue with the through trip. We decided to turn right after the confluence and head out via the waterfall, but at some point we took a wrong turn, perhaps climbing out at the wrong point, and eventually exited via a squeeze in boulders about 30m from the Smithy.

Back on route we had no further problems making our way out aside from an incident where my balanced camera box slipped off a rock above me giving me a black eye!

Loz at Fault Aven
Jess and Loz at Fault Aven

Present: Loz Appleby, Jess Burkey & Mark Burkey

Saturday 4 July 2015

Making the Mostest of our trip to Dan Yr Ogof

Loz contacted us mid-week asking if we could offer her a couple of longish trips over the weekend.  I fancied having a play toward the Far North in anticipation of a future trip to photograph Pinnacle chamber, to get an idea of how many people and equipment would be needed to capture this impressive chamber, and so the trip was planned.

In my rush to get there on time I had managed to forget to print off the required paperwork and so we diverted to visit Peter Cardy, who kindly offered the use of his printer.

I shouldn’t have worried too much about getting there on time, after all this is the ‘Late Loz Appleby’ we were caving with ;)

We were eventually kitted up (It wouldn’t be until we arrived at the long crawl that I’d realise I had forgotten my kneepads….Doh!) and entering the show cave at about 11am, We had set a turnaround of 4pm and would just see how far we could get in that time.

Loz had never done the Green Canal so we took the wetter option rather than the lower series in. Upon arrival we found only a couple of small rings so I headed up the canal first to both retrieve enough for ourselves and to leave a few more at that end. The water was extremely cold for some reason, or perhaps it was just that I had been in it longer, but I had only just started to warm up when we got to the Rising.

We made swift progress up the ladder and rift to Windy Way and down the pitch in to The Great North Road. At Pinnacle chamber I pointed out the climb down from the Over Pass that I hoped we would return via before heading down to the Meanders.

As we rounded a corner I looked up and just had to have a go at capturing the impressive passage. I set up the flash guns, took a single shot and then got the girls to reposition, was just about to take another and the flash behind me slipped off the ledge and in to the stream way. I snatched it up and ejected the batteries and begun shaking out the water, only to have the end of the gun come off in my hand and the flashgun sploshed into the water again! Checking it over I found the hot shoe connection smashed, so from this point onward I would only have the two flashguns. It was quite an interesting lesson in the end as I had to adjust how I took shots, electing for different camera settings and using strong backlighting, so not all was lost; I learnt something other than ‘be more careful with your expensive toys’ ! ;/

(Jess says “from my viewpoint, the flashgun fell into about an inch of water and Mark retrieved it swiftly, so it would probably be ok. But then he looked at it, shook it and threw it into a deep puddle in disgust! Loz and I were in stitches…”)

We continued on to The Mostest, an impressive and pretty area of flow stones, frozen rivers and crystal pools. Again I spent a little time taking a few pics before finding the start of the overpass. Time was getting on and after a brief discussion we decided to head out, finishing the round trip as we went.

Loz at the Far North Road Pitch

Loz and Jess in the Meanders
Jess at the entrance to Cloud Chamber

Present: Loz Appleby, Jess Burkey & Mark Burkey