Sunday 29 November 2015

An Ace Adventure In Agen Allwedd From Any Perspective

Our original plan for Sunday was to do an inner circle trip in Aggy, but as there had been heavy rain for the preceding couple of days, and the fact that Chloe turned up after having had only 2 hours sleep the night before, a rather more gentle trip was planned.

The wind and rain buffeted us as we walked the track to the entrance, almost blowing Jess and Chloe off the path at one point!
Glad to be out of the elements we were soon warmed up as we made our way though the entrance series with Jess leading the way through to Barons Chamber.
We continued on with me taking full advantage of the easy passage to play with some different angles photographing Main Passage before dumping the camera gear and heading past the Music Room, Cliffs of Dover and in to the Ace of Spades Stream and Aven Series.

The area is a real 3D maze and the avens had an impressive volume of water cascading from them. At one point Jess led us around a sharp dog leg and in to a very muddy phreatic tube. The tube had an awkward spike of calcite protruding from the ceiling followed be an equally awkward squeeze to emerge head first 8ft above the floor. Past the spike Jess called back for me to grab a welly to stop her from slipping too fast.
I looked through the oppressive bit of passage not looking forward to following her.

Jess was the only one of us who had been in this area of the cave before and eventually coaxed me through with the knowledge that it linked back with the rest of the maze.
Chloe and Mark didn't find the awkward manoeuvre any easier, but managed to join us in the small chamber.
With everyone grouped we pushed through another impressively aqueous aven to find a small chamber blocked with boulders. I had a good hunt around but couldn't find a way on......At this point Jess admitted she hadn't been in this part before and just hadn't wanted to try and climb up to the squeeze by herself!
This proved to be as interesting as she feared and Jess, Chloe and Mark required assistance to get back in the tube and through. This left me flapping like a fish out of water trying to get in a position to get back. Fortunately ,once in the muddy tube, it was heading down dip and the squeeze proved easier in reverse.
We continued investigating every passage until I found a flat out crawl to a particularly loose and uninviting dig. As I backed up a sizeable chunk of rock displaced pinning me. Too heavy to lift I managed to roll it off and was very happy to get back in to more stable passage with nothing more than bruising.
Chloe was looking pretty tired and my adventures with the loose choke made us decide to quit whilst we were ahead.
The exit proved happily uneventful and we were soon hurriedly changing in the damp night air before saying our good byes and heading home.

Gypsum crystals in the floor of Main Passage

Jess leading the children (Playing with perspective shots)

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

Sunday 22 November 2015

Light Work in Lancaster Hole

The misfortune of the weekend continued into Sunday with Mike finding that his brand new Scurion light mounted on a shiny red helmet had disappeared from the changing room overnight. The next two hours were spent searching every possible corner of Brackenbottom, even making contact with some divers who had left early in the morning, all to no avail. Finally a late riser at the club was asked if he had seen it, and then the penny dropped. He had an identical set up, and on seeing it late the previous evening thought he had left his out and put it into his car. Reunited with all our kit and after finishing off a wonderful breakfast provided by Mark and Jess we had a feeling that the air was a little warmer than on the previous day. With the possibility of the road to Bullpot Farm having thawed out we headed off to Easegill. The road was clear and soon we were at the empty farm, ready to get changed. At this point Mike realised he had now left his Scurion battery at Brackenbottom on charge. With a good drive back to the cottage and no guarantee anyone would be there when we got back we decided to try and make phone contact. We knew of one point where a faint signal could be obtained, and after a couple of phone calls were made we had arranged with Josh Bratchley to pick up the kit so we could pick up from him later. Mark provided Mike with a spare battery for the day and so we changed and then headed over a desolate and cold moor the the warm welcoming entrance to Lancaster Hole.

Entrance Pitch - Lancaster Hole
Loz on the Entrance Pitch - Lancaster Hole - Photo Mark Burkey

Photos of the entrance pitch were taken by Mark, before a quick visit to Slug World was made by those who hadn't been there before while Mark and Brendan packed up the photo gear. We then headed into the cave, stopping off for all to have a look at the Colonnades as we passed nearby. We headed down to Fall Pot and dropping through the boulders to the streamway and found that the floods of the start of the week had receded well, making a journey up the Main Drain quite safe. We dropped off our gear and then headed the short distance downstream to reach the main sump. Impressed with the lovely shaped passage on the approach for the sump, the photographers hot-footed back to Fall Pot for the cameras and a couple of photos were taken.

Entrance Pitch - Lancaster Hole
Jess near the sump - Lancaster Hole - Photo Mark Burkey

The Main Drain - Lancaster Hole
Mike near the sump - Lancaster Hole - Photo Photo Brendan Marris

We then headed upstream along the magnificent section of streamway taking photos in a couple of the locations that we had scouted on a previous visit.

The Main Drain - Lancaster Hole
Loz in the Main Drain - Lancaster Hole - Photo Photo Brendan Marris

Main Drain - Lancaster Hole
Mike and Loz in the Main Drain - Lancaster Hole - Photo Mark Burkey

The Main Drain - Lancaster Hole
Jess in the Main Drain - Lancaster Hole - Photo Photo Brendan Marris

After a good session of photographs and with the camera gear being a little too moist to take any more, we made the final approach to the boulder choke at Oxbow Corner. Here a tricky climb up, assisted by a muddy rope saw us climb up to the high level fossil passages. Our route was now to head back to Lancaster Hole via the upper series and soon we were stomping along the fossil passages, traversing along muddy ledges high above the streamway that we could hear below. We passed the beautiful Painter's Pallet and Bob's Boss before we reached Stake Pot which had marked the end of our trip on our last visit. We kitted up with our SRT gear so we had protection of the slippy roped climbs down and then climbed up assisted by hand jammers of the far side. We were now in familiar territory for Brendan and Mark and made good time back to the bottom of the entrance pitch. Now dark and with clear skies the temperature outside had plummeted and we quickly exited and then stomped back to Red Rose, heading off at about 8pm.

A great trip into this fantastic system, a pity we only had one day there. The weekend was saved by the hospitality of Scoff and the Bradford members. Next time a Lancaster - County through trip.

Present: Mark Burkey, Jess Burkey, Loz Appleby, Mike Bonner and Brendan Marris

Saturday 21 November 2015

Dudley do Yorkshire: On a slippery slope to nowhere

November's caving meet in Yorkshire attracted 5 of the usual suspects, all agreeing to meet at Inglesports for breakfast on the Saturday morning. After breakfast there was the compulsory fondling of kit in the shop, with Mike kitting himself out completely with shiny SRT kit and Jess insisting on matching cowstails for her caving outfit.

After yet more shopping in the local Co-op, with Brendan panic buying food to replace the delicious lasagne he had left on his coffee table at home, we finally set off to the Red Rose hut, to sign in and actually do some caving.

Unfortunately the Yorkshire weather and road conditions had other plans. As we headed uphill the road became icy and slippery, until all 3 vehicles became stranded at the side of the road, unable to continue. After some pushing and panting to avoid sliding back down the road sideways, we had no option but to abandon our trip.

Luckily we were able to find the Bradford hut open and welcoming, so accommodation was sorted, but where to go caving? Mike, of course, was desperate to try out his new SRT kit, and the options boiled down to a dry, but boring, Sell Gill trip, or a prettier but decidedly wetter Long Churn trip.

Having only brought one rope with us, as that was all we needed for the original plan, we had to cobble together enough ropes from kit we carry in the van. This made for an interesting set of pitches but in the end Mark managed to rig Long Churn right down to the bottom of Alum Pot. With 5 of us in the group it was quite slow going so Brendan opted to stay at the Window, and Loz and I decided to forego the last pitch with only Mark and Mike going right down to the sump.
Mike dealt well with all the SRT challenges including rebelays, but by the time we were on the way back up we were all freezing, especially in the more exposed Alum Pot. Getting back underground through the Window into proper cave felt almost tropical in comparison!

We exited the cave in good time to get back to the Bradford where Brendan produced a great impromptu dinner.

Long Churn Entrance
Looking out in to Alum Pot

Loz at the window to Alum Pot

Present: Mark Burkey, Jess Burkey, Brendan Marris, Loz Appleby, Mike Bonner

Sunday 8 November 2015

A wet days play in Cwm Dwr

Loz joined Brendan and I Sunday for a trip in to Cwm Dwr.
We had planned to visit a part of the cave we hadn't visited before but once we arrived at the foot of the divers pitch the torrent of water made it almost impassable.
Plan B was devised and instead we took a couple of photo's of the wet cascade and headed off to show Loz some of the rest of the cave.
First we headed up Heol Eira and then on past the pull through to Upper Piccadilly and in to a maze of interesting crawls. These emerged near to the 'Tapioca' formations area of the cave. Loz and I went off to take a look whilst Brendan continued poking around the passages near by. Re-grouped we headed out via a loop route which brought us back in to Big Shacks and from here Loz led the way out. An interesting trip which has opened up a few more area's that we shall have to go back and explore on a slightly drier day :)

Brendan and Loz in Big Shacks after the choke

Loz checks out a rather wet divers pitch (Photo Brendan Marris)

Present Mark Burkey, Loz Appleby & Brendan Marris

Saturday 7 November 2015

Ogof Yr Ardd / Pen Blwydd yr Ogof

For the SWCC fireworks weekend we planned on the little visited 'Birthday' cave behind the Rhongyr Isaf outdoor centre.
We arrived to a packed out SWCC on Friday evening and after a very wet and windy night kitted up and drove down to the lay-by near the outdoor centre.
We stopped off to ask permission at the house and were led straight to a thick patch of brambles. It was quite obvious that no-one had been in this cave for a while. We were advised that after all the rain we should be very careful as the lower passage can back up becoming hazardous and promised we would keep to the higher passage.
After only 20ft I arrived at a tight slot in the phreatic shelving and quickly found myself dangling in mid air with my ribs unable to pass the constriction. Brendan slid through and said that it was indeed rather snug and went off to find the other entrance for me.
I headed back up and waited for a while till I saw Brendan's helmet and went to meet him. The second entrance is a cascade over very loose boulders which had given way as Brendan had ascended.
Carefully we made our way down the slope and on through the fragile limestone till we reached the head of the 13M pitch. Water was belting down this and so we used an alternative higher window to rig from.
At the base of the impressive pitch we found the way on blocked by a thunderous waterfall. We soon realised this wasn't really the place to be after a few days of heavy rain. We had planned to take a shot of the ladder pitch, but with the spray and misting it would be near impossible.
On the way out I had another go at the first entrance and found that it was an easier task to scrape my ribs through on the way up than down.
Back at the hut Brendan found that his ankle had bruised quite badly, so changed and warm we partook in a few medicinal beers before curry and fireworks ensued :)

Present: Mark Burkey & Brendan Marris