Sunday 31 January 2016

Exploring The Upper Oxbow Series Ogof Ffynnon Ddu

Sunday we were eventually sorted and heading underground for about 11am. Our objective was to go up the sky hook pitch to the upper oxbow series and drop the two pitches down toward splash inlet. Chloe was feeling a little under the weather Sunday morning, perhaps connected with her unplanned swim in Croesor the week before.
We made our way in via Edwards Shortcut and were soon rigging the pull through. Some time was wasted re-rigging the pitch and dropping the SRT kit back down as we'd decided to only take 2 kits between the 5 of us. More time was spent de-rigging to use the rope on the 20m pitch back down at the end of the upper oxbow series.
As we made our way Chloe really began to flake and so we split in to two teams.  Brendan continued with myself and Jess to the head of the pitch and then headed back to rejoin the other two to take a few pictures whilst Jess and I dropped the first pitch. At the 8m pitch I checked that I could squeeze through the small slot in the floor for the pitch and just about managed, but decided that it would be a huge effort to try and get back through with SRT kit on and so looked at an alternative rigging through the higher entry in to the aven. 
I dropped down the pitch and had a very quick poke around the passage at the bottom before heading back to Jess.
We joined the others to find them just finishing up. Brendan rigged the pitch back down and whilst he and Chloe made their way down, Jess, myself and Mark took the opportunity for me to grab a quick couple of shots of my own.
As we made our way out of the cave we were pushing our call out time and as Chloe needed to pace herself Jess headed out ahead to ensure a call out wasn't begun.
I exited to a very misty hillside and was only 50m from the gate when I heard Jess calling me. She had started down the foggy hillside only to lose her way. Fearing that she could wind up being the one who required rescue she decided to try and get back to the entrance. By this time the others had arrived and we headed down the hill together for a welcome hot shower and cuppa before heading back.

Chloe admires formations in the upper oxbow (Photo Brendan Marris)
Chloe admires formations in the upper oxbow (Photo Brendan Marris)

Jess above the Sky Hook Pitch (Photo Mark Burkey)
Jess above the Sky Hook Pitch (Photo Mark Burkey)

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

Saturday 30 January 2016

Light Work in Ogof Craig A Ffynnon

With Christmas and foreign caving trips out the way, it was back to caving in the cold and wet of the UK. Ed was joining us for his first trip with The Dudley and so we decided to head to South Wales for a trip into Ogof Craig A Ffynnon to visit the Hall of the Mountain King. With a good number of people in the party and a sedate trip planned we decided to pack up a tripod and lots and lots of flashguns to take into the cave to re-photograph the fantastically decorated chamber. As is the tradition we met at Luigi's for breakfast before driving around to the cave. The day was bright but cold so we changed quite quickly before heading into the cave led by Mr Burgess. Even though there was no rain a good stream ran along the footpath and water was high in the cave, with foam lines indicating that parts had sumped during the heavy rain earlier in the week. The trip was uneventful, but brightened up with regular vocalisations from Ed as we made our way through squeezes, low sections and especially the wet bits. We arrived at the Hall of the Mountain King to unpack the photographic gear while the rest of the group had a look around. Mark found that a Daren Drum with four flashguns and a set of walkie talkies had leaked, making the contents unusable. Batteries were taken out of the units and wiped dry with cloths before we set up with the working kit we had. A tripod was set up and with the help of the group, the nine working flashguns were placed in the chamber or hand held to take two shots that were then spliced together to give the wide shot of the chamber below.

Hall of the Mountain King - Ogof Craig A Ffynnon
Hall of the Mountain King - lit with 9 flashguns

While the gear was packed up some of the group headed into Hurricane Alley through the flat out crawl into the start of the Severn Tunnel. Much noise was made by certain people as they went through the squeezes and wet bits. Mark Burgess had a cut to his eyelid as he banged into rock in the squeeze, emerging bleeding and swollen. We then regrouped and headed out noticing that the water levels had dropped somewhat while we had been underground.

Present: Mark Burkey, Jess Burkey, Chloe Burney, Mark Burgess, Ed Simkins and Brendan Marris

Saturday 23 January 2016

Croesor-Rhosydd A Shockingly Wet Adventure

After our adventures in Lanzarote, it was something of a shock to the system to come back to the UK.....even more so when our first trip back was decided to be North Wales in January!

Myself, Jess, Loz, Chloe and Mark met up at the car park at 10am. As we did so another group of eight arrived and came over to ask where we were planning on going. It turned out we were both intending on the Croesor to Rhosydd through trip, but as our group were planning on spending some time taking photos we decided that it shouldn't cause any issues.

We let the other group head up the hill before us and begun our amble up ourselves.

At the entrance window the first group were just heading in, so we took our time kitting up and had a bite of our sandwiches before entering ourselves.

We caught the other party at the first abseil so I got out the camera and wasted some time taking a few shots and wound up doing the same again at the next pitch.

The last of their members were just crossing the zip line as we arrived but as this was my main objective for a photograph we wouldn't catch them again.
I begun unpacking the 15kg of camera kit I'd lugged up the hill for the shot. Jess unpacked the boat she had carried for me and the three girls begun blowing it up whilst I gave Mark a flash gun to take to the other side.

With the boat inflated Chloe begun bouncing around asking if she could be the one in the boat. She took the inflated dingy to the waters edge and Loz tried to steady things. Unfortunately this proved a little more awkward than anticipated and with a splosh Chloe went head first in to the deep, icy water. She scrambled to get back out with the cold taking her breath away and had another go. This time she managed to get in safely and I handed her a dry bag with a few flash guns in. I'd tested a similar set up around the corner and had to put some rocks in to get it to submerge.

After a couple of shots Chloe squealed from the boat saying the rocks I'd put in had pierced the bag and it was filling with water. She just made it back to shore when the flash gun which was  shrieking  in the pool of water went bang and emitted a rather unpleasant electrical burning smell.

We popped the batteries out of the wet equipment, dried it off as best we could and continued on.

Chloe's least favourite part of the trip is the traverse which she finds hugely awkward and this time was no exception. After 20 minutes of fighting with it she finally dragged herself up the slope, but with all her adrenaline gone, being soaked to the skin, and the howling draught coming through the mine she was soon turning a rather unflattering shade of blue. We begun a quick game of strip caver and each donated some dry clothing for her to get her warmed back up and continued our way over the bridges of death, abseiled down in to the waiting boat and out via Rhosydd to a damp and windy night sky.

Although Jess and I were quite looking forward to a cosy evening in the van with our gas heating and 15 tog duvet, listening to the patter of rain on the roof, for some reason Chloe wasn't as keen on setting up her tent in the pouring rain and so it was decided we'd call it a day and retreat back to the Midlands where it almost never rains and its a nice constant twenty degree's all year round ;)

A dry Chloe on the 1st abseil
2nd abseil
Zip line after the 2nd abseil
Chloe struggles on the awkward traverse

Loz on the Bridge of Death
Jess exits Rhosydd to a wet and windy night


Mark Burkey, Mark Burgess, Chloe Burney, Jess Burkey & Loz Appleby