Sunday 28 February 2016

A Trip To Tunnel Top

Sundays trip was to be a slightly more gentle Tunnel Top trip to try and find the Cascade Aven extensions.
We lost Chloe at the entrance and she decided her cold was getting the better of her and retreated to the parked cars to look after the cakes.
With just the 3 of us left Brendan and I took a few photo's at the entrance before poking around all the passageway around the calcite slope.
After a couple of hours we decided not to leave Chloe for too long and begun to head out. As Brendan made his way up the entrance pitch Mark Burgess went for a poke around below the pitch head and when he came back he said it seemed to continue down a tube, so whilst he made his way up the pitch I one to take a look and continued on down to a drafting rift which I'm sure is the Cascade Aven series and we will have to return to explore!

Calcite Cascade (Photo Brendan Marris)
Calcite Cascade (Photo Brendan Marris)

Present Mark Burkey, Brendan Marris & Mark Burgess

Saturday 27 February 2016

Getting Around To See The Swiss Village In Aggy

Having been led once on our infamous 'Outer Circle' trip I fancied both seeing if I could find my way around the Inner circle and seeing The Swiss Village, so a trip in to Aggy was decided for Saturdays trip.
Brendan and I met with Chloe and Mark at Luigi's for breakfast before heading to a quite busy White Walls.
There were no less than 5 groups heading in to Agen Allwedd this fine Saturday morning, and so we kept a reasonably sedate pace in through the entrance series.
My navigation held through to Selenite needle passage, where I would have missed this completely without Brendan there!
After this I had no problem with navigation the rest of the trip and so we took a little time to take a few photo's just for a change!
We exited within our call out time for which Jess was grateful and made our way to the Indian in Crickhowell to refuel before heading on to the SWCC for our next days adventures.

Navigating Turkey Stream Way (Photo Brendan Marris)
Gigantic Junction (Photo Brendan Marris)
Selenite Needle Passage (Photo Brendan Marris)
Swiss Village (Photo Mark Burkey)
St Pauls (Photo Mark Burkey)

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

Sunday 21 February 2016

A sporting days play in OFD 1

For Sunday Brendan, myself and Mike were joined by Carl and Magdalena for an OFD I round trip.

As I had never popped my head in to Powell's Cave, Brendan led us on a slight diversion through this short, but impressively proportioned cave before continuing on to OFD I.

We had been unsure if water levels would be ok for this trip, and arriving at The Step we were pleasantly surprised. Although high we were happy that the sporting stream way would not be a danger.

This was Magdalena's first experience of a UK cave and she certainly seemed to enjoy herself, her smile never leaving her face, even when up to her neck in icy water!

The high water levels gave the chance to take some dramatic photo's on the way in and after a couple of shots we continued over the pots on on to Boulder chamber before doubling back to climb up at Lowe's chain. Carl did an impressive job of showing why round'a'bout chamber is so aptly named and Magdalena made all the right noises as we took in the pretty formations.
At the bolt traverse we again took a little time for a quick photo before continuing on and bumped in to Les and Co who were doing the escape route in reverse. This was just before the dug out and as they were stood in the passage I missed the turn and headed toward the Maypole series before Brendan called be back....DoH!

On our way out Brendan had a quick play with flash bulbs at Pluto's bath and we had a quick scout around for a future shoot location. The intimidating flat out squeeze go the better of me and only Brendan and Magdalena actually pushed through..... looks like I'm back on the diet if we're going to get a shot of the deep lake which loomed the other side!

After this we headed out and up the hill for warm showers and our customary cuppa before heading off.

Mike in the impressively sporting stream way (Photo Mark Burkey)
Magdalena at the bolt traverse (Photo Mark Burkey)

Carl at Pluto's Bath (Photo Brendan Marris)

Present: Brendan, Mike, Carl, Mark & Magdalena

Saturday 20 February 2016

Reflections on a OFD2 Caving Trip

With yet another day of heavy rain ahead of us we had little choice but to plan a trip in Ogof Ffynnon Ddu Top Entrance. We headed up the mountain in driving rain and sleet, relieved to get ourselves underground. A short way in from the entrance we split the group, with the SRT party heading down to the Nave, while our group headed to Big Chamber Near The Entrance. We took a passage from the chamber that leads to the gate for the pitch down into Column Hall. Around this area are a maze of passages, much of it well shaped, scalloped and phreatic, with many shower inlets from avens which were flowing well. We spent over and hour in this area, taking a couple of photos before a slip by Brendan, broke a radio trigger and ended the photography (much o the others relief).

Phreatic passage reflected in a pool of water - OFD2
Phreatic passage reflected in a pool of water

Shower inlet in the passages near Big Chamber

We stashed the camera box and then headed up to the Mini Columns before heading to the Bedding Chambers where many impressive shower inlets were flowing down into the passages. Our next aim was to head deeper into the cave to meet up with the SRT party, and so we descended down the steep calcite slope of Speedy Caver. From here we headed to Gnome Passage, having a look all along it before dropping down the Corkscrew and heading down Salubrious Passage. After a brief look at the Trident and the Judge we headed to the top of the Nave where we found tackle bags, a rigged pitch but no sign of the cavers. We then headed back to the Crossroads and to President's Leap where Lucy headed across to have a look at Selenite tunnel. We then retraced our steps back to the Nave to find the other party engaged in a photo shoot lower down the pitches, and after making voice contact we headed out of the cave for hot showers, tea, cakes and medals.

Present: Lucy Collins, Ed Simkins and Brendan Marris

SRT practice day at the Nave.

Having headed up the mountain in foul weather it was good to be out of the rain and in the cave. We headed a short way in before Brendan's group split off for their trip and Mike, Rich and myself headed to the Nave for ours.

Mike was to rig the three pitches and as this was his first attempt I first showed him a few variations he could use. As we went through these we heard the thunderous roar of a flood pulse ahead of us and within five minutes a second inlet near the pitch head begun to flow.

We took a couple of minutes to photograph this unusual phenomena before Mike continued with his rope work and led the way down the first pitch.

At the bottom Rich and I took a couple of pictures of the huge volume of water coming in whilst Mike continued on to rig the second pitch. Again Mike did a great job with the rigging and we were soon at the third pitch head which would lead us down to the 2nd oxbow. 

Mike headed down first with myself and Rich following. At the bottom we had a quick at the upstream end of the oxbow which I remember as being completely dry in normal conditions and this was just above the knee. We were soon chest deep in water and the force of the flow meant we could venture no further. We retreated back taking yet another photo of the unusual water conditions as we went and reversed our route with Mike and Rich de-rigging as we went.

As Mike had done all the rigging Rich, who had carried the tackle in to the cave, offered to carry the heavy bag of wet rope back out again... I think there may have been a couple of points during our exit when he may have slightly regretted his decision, but did a sterling job and didn't collapse until we were back at the hut!

An inlet releases at the head of the first pitch
Flood pulse releases just after the Nave formation

The 2nd Chamber
The 2nd Oxbow OFD II Main Streamy
Present: Mark Burkey, Rich Gibbons & Mike Bonner.

Sunday 7 February 2016

Shacked Up In Cwm Dwr

After a night under the stars, hail, rain and high winds, Mark and Chloe were both feeling a little under the weather and so a lighter trip was planned to pop in to Cwm Dwr to take a couple of photo's in Big Shacks 2.
Only Brendan had been before so it would be nice to visit a part of the system we hadn't previously done.
We headed in through the damp crawls, paused for a quick photo in Cwm Dwr Jamma and then continued through the boulder choke and in to Big Shacks 2.
We started by climbing Boudica's Chariot Wheel Aven to have a poke around and then squeezed through to take a peek at the end passage before heading back to our main objective, photographing the Big Shacks 2 main chamber.
After this we offered Chloe and Mark more of a trip but they were happy with what we'd done and so we headed back out for a welcome cuppa before heading back.

Cwm Dwr Jamma (Photo M.Burkey)
Big Shacks 2 (Photo M.Burkey)
Big Shacks 2 (Photo B.Marris)
Big Shacks 2 (Photo B.Marris)

Present: Brendan, Mark, Mark2, Chloe and Jess

Saturday 6 February 2016

A Baptism of Fire and Water in OFD

It's always a pleasure to take someone new underground,  and their reaction to caving can rarely be predicted beforehand. Ed's first trip underground in Craig A Ffynnon last weekend was highly entertaining, as he pronounced the aqueous entrance series to be 'ridiculous' and the contortions of the boulder choke 'crazy'. Who would have thought he would be begging for more the next weekend?
Perhaps it was because we told him that not all caving trips are crawly and wet,  so in order to prove that,  we promised to take him on a lovely gentle trip into top entrance.
we also had Chloe and Mark II in the group,  I thought it would be nice to mix things up a bit and go via Big Chamber and the Labyrinth to Arete Chamber,  and then along Salubrious to the Trident and Judge.
memory for caving trips is of course legendary,  so when Brendan said "Ooh,  across the traversy bit? " I just smiled and nodded. And when Mark added "And over the big hole? " I was sure I'd remember it when we got there.
So Ed's lovely gentle introduction to OFD had him,  within the first half an hour,  traversing,  stepping over a bottomless pit onto a slippery climb, and clambering over boulders with no visible means of support. But it wasn't crawly or wet!  The daunting boulder slope down towards Cairn Chamber was however the final straw. Uncharacteristically quiet,  when he got to the bottom Ed proclaimed that the descent was 'worse than chucking myself out of a plane for skydiving ', and the only reason he'd done it was because there was no way he was going back the way we had come!
We reassured him that the worst was over and the rest was just (mostly) dry walking passage. And it really wasn't my fault that Brendan decided that Ed would look best standing right under the waterfall for a photo in Arete Chamber .
To finish the trip we took in the Trident and Judge,  Swamp Creek formations and the Corkscrew , and were still out in time for a shower and curry.
Can't wait to see if Ed is begging for  another trip for  next weekend!

Big Chamber Near The Entrance (Photo M Burkey)
The Bottom & Middle Of Arete (Photo B Marris)

Trip report: Jess Burkey

Present: Ed, Mark, Mark2, Chloe, Brendan & Jess