Sunday 26 June 2016

Mud & Pretties In Ogof Craig a Ffynnon

After working in Brecon Friday through to Sunday morning Jess and I thought we would take advantage of being so close to a caving area and so decided on a photographic trip in to Ogof Craig a Ffynnon.
We were soon wishing we had put fewer layers on as we walked up the hill in blazing sunshine to the entrance and were glad of the cool air coming from the cave.
We paused on our way in for a couple of shots in the entrance chambers before continuing on through the boulder choke and in to the gloopy mud before Travertine passage.
We were soon at our destination covered in mud and stripped down to our under suits to protect the delicate formations in the beautiful straw grotto that was our photographic destination.
Although Jess had put many layers on and was a little warm on the way in she eventually cooled down and after an hour of photographs we made our way back out to a sunny Sunday afternoon.

3rd entrance chamber

3rd entrance chamber

Straw Grotto

Straw Grotto

Present: Mark & Jess

Sunday 19 June 2016

Ogof Tee - Stuck in the 19th Hole

Our second cave for the day was just across the valley from the first. We headed up the track onto the hillside adjacent to the Merthyr Tydfil golf course. After a short distance we arrived at the shakehole and made our way down through the massive and loose boulder choke to arrive after a few minutes in a rather shaky gritstone collapse chamber. From here we followed some low crawls, often over fallen boulders to make our way to the end of Ogof Tee, where a strong draught beaconed us down a route through boulders.

Low crawl in Ogof Tee
Low crawl in Ogof Tee - Photo by Mark

Loz in a small alcove in Ogof Tee
Loz in a small alcove in Ogof Tee - Photo by Mark

Loz in a small chamber in Ogof Tee
Loz in a small chamber in Ogof Tee - Photo by Mark

The route was very tight at first and the belled out, so a line was rigged and then we started to descend. The climb was not as bad as first looked and soon Loz and Brendan were awaiting the arrival of Mark. The squeeze through the boulders was far to tight for him so a few minutes of rock bashing took place to take off the sharp pointy edge of the one boulder that was stopping his descent. Soon Mark was able to just squeeze through and we prayed that this would be a one way trip. We were now in Ogof Cil Sanws and we followed the strong draught through some boulder digs and tight sections to meet a trickle of water entering a low wide section. We could see plenty of airspace and so we went through to and area where we could see daylight. Some frantic digging through snady sediment allowed us to reach daylight at the Ogof Cil Sanws entrance high up in the side of the Danydarren quarry.

Low wet crawl near the entrance to Ogof Cil Sanws
Low wet crawl near the entrance to Ogof Cil Sanws - Photo by Mark

Present: Loz Appleby, Mark Burkey and Brendan Marris

Twll Clogfaen - Gone in a Flash

Today we were joined by Loz and the plan was to complete two short caves and take some photos in each of the sites. After kitting up we descended through the impressive scaffolded entrance series to meet the small streamway. This was followed to the first pitch where a descent of the fixed ladder brought us to a decorated grotto.

Rich in passages near Moonlight Chamber - OFD2
Formations after the first pitch - Photo by Mark

We paused for a few minutes for Mark to photograph this area before heading downstream to the second pitch. Here some time was spent with Mark taking photos from the top while Brendan photoed from below.

Rich in passages near Moonlight Chamber - OFD2
Looking down the main pitch - Photo by Mark

Rich in passages near Moonlight Chamber - OFD2
Loz approaching the top of the main pitch - Photo by Brendan

Once the photos were done we headed to the low flat-out crawls of the lower streamway, Mark wisely leaving his camera behind. Once close to the end of the streamway we paused for some photos, but within a couple of minutes Brendan's flashguns were waterlogged in this low wet area and we gave up on the photos for the day. A quick diversion to the aven inlet followed before we exited the cave.

Rich in passages near Moonlight Chamber - OFD2
Mark crawling in the lower streamway - Photo by Brendan

A game of hide and seek with the nut off the entrance lock finished off the trip.

Present: Loz Appleby, Mark Burkey and Brendan Marris

Saturday 18 June 2016

Headbanging trip to Moonlight Chamber Area

After a recent trip to the passages at the top of the pitch down into Moonlight Chamber we realised there was still quite an extensive area of passages that we had still not visited. Rich was joining the trip and wanted to learn some more routes in OFD and so we set off on a not very direct route to our destination of choice. We first headed up to the climb up to the Mini Columns, from where we headed to Speedy Caver and then slid down to enter Gnome Passage. A short jaunt down took us to the start of Edwards Shortcut, where easy work was made of the slippy climb down. A short while later Brendan missed his footing on a short section of easy traverse and ended up falling and head-butting a boulder with the side of his head. The helmet saved him from serious damage, but his ear was cut and bleeding. After some proficient first aid by Mark, the ear was dressed and we continued to the main traverses and the rest of the trip. We went to Shatter Pillar and then down to Cross Rift before heading to the end of the passage and then the climb up into the series of passages around Moonlight Chamber. We followed a route through the passages that we had not previously visited and then reached a climb down where a hand-line was required. This took us into a maze of passages where we located the other side of a pretty crystal pool that we plan to return to to photograph at a later date. In our exploration of these passages we ended up arriving at the start of Lugubrious Passage. This was a connection that we had not anticipated and we may use this simpler route on a future trip.

Rich in passages near Moonlight Chamber - OFD2
Rich in passages near Moonlight Chamber - Photo by Brendan

Rich in passages near Moonlight Chamber - OFD2
Rich in passages near Moonlight Chamber - Photo by Mark

Rich in passages near Moonlight Chamber - OFD2
Rich in passages near Moonlight Chamber - Photo by Mark

The route out of the cave was via Selenite Tunnel up Salubrious, taking a short cut to the bottom of the Corkscrew Climb and then via the sandy crawls from Gnome Passage and out via White Arch Series. All above ground for 4pm.

First Aid by Mark Burkey

Present: Rich Gibbons, Mark Burkey and Brendan Marris

Sunday 5 June 2016

WL Cave

Sunday was scheduled for a nice gentle trip in to WL Cave to take a couple of photo's to complete the main caves of the Fairy Quarry.

Jess and I started the day meeting up with Keith, Kermit and Bev at the Priddy Farm Shop for their usual excellent breakfast before tootling over to the Quarry.

I wasn't expecting much out of WL and was very pleasantly surprised by the formations as we made our way through. At the end chamber I went squirrelling off in to the boulder chokes and after 10min's of poking around I returned to find that Keith had dived down an impossibly small rift passage for an explore.
On our way out we took a few photo's and were soon back in the lovely sunny day.

We finished the weekend with a late lunch at the OakHill before heading back to wash off all the mud from the days digging the day before..!

Jess in the entrance passage
Bev at The Lily Pads
Bev at Pink Pool Chamber
Keith in the entrance passage

Present: Mark, Jess, Keith, Bev & Kermit

Saturday 4 June 2016

Grebe Swallet, A Parallel Universe!

As Mendip Digfest virgins this year we eagerly scanned the list of diggers looking for willing volunteers/ victims for their dig,  to see which one seemed the most alluring.

Chris Binding's looked most tempting; 'Absolutely guaranteed to go'.

How could we pass by the opportunity to join a dig that promised so much? (Though 'excellent picnic facilities' was also a strong contender. )

We therefore met up with Chris on a lovely sunny morning to go and find miles of new , cavernous passage in Grebe Swallet.

On the way Chris gave us a potted history of the cave and pointed out how the landscape and geology of the area indicated that cave passage to rival Upper Flood was almost definitely waiting for us to just tap in and discover it.

In my mind's eye I saw us emerging into huge chambers and having to be careful we didn't get lost as we wandered past huge crystal white formations. " Wow,  like a parallel universe! “ I exclaimed.

The entrance was heavily guarded by an army of slugs, which nearly cut short my caving trip , but the lure of fame and fortune won and soon we were underground.

Chris gave us a guided tour of the known cave and mine which was thoroughly enjoyable. As a big Willie Stanton fan I fully appreciated how much of his engineering had gone into the cave and how well it had served to protect delicate areas and historical artefacts.

Our role was to clear and make good two areas where Chris and the rest of the team had been 'teasing' the rock to see what lay beyond.

At the first location Chris spent his time mostly throwing rocks at Mark,  while I played with mud.
At Perdition the dig face and air space was limited,  so I stayed back out of the way while the boys took turns prising away at the heavy mud and rocks. Once they had both worn themselves out,  I was invited to  'Have a Go'.

Easing away at the mud and brittle calcite was quite fun! I was just getting into the swing of it when the boys got bored and decided that we probably wouldn't be able to make any further progress that day. rolling the last few bits of mud towards me, to leave it tidy,   I found that my hand was now waving about freely on the other side of a calcited wall! A Void!

The next couple of hours passed in a flurry of activity as Chris and Mark sweated and cajoled the calcite wall and mud floor,  revealing a tantalizing decorated rift passage beyond . More of the mud floor was pushed aside until Chris could wriggle forward  into the passage to see where it led to . An exciting prospect lays ahead - the rift pinches in,  but a dark void can be observed beyond it - a Parallel Universe? ?

A quick guestimate of the amount of passage gained was about 5 metres,  which Chris thinks is possibly a Mendip Digfest record!
I certainly think there is about 5 tonnes of mud to be cleaned off the suits. ..

The rest of Digfest was really enjoyable too, lots of great people and plenty of fun and Potholer. Who can ask for more?

The Dig Face On Arrival (Photo Christopher Binding)
Mark Furtles with a Crowbar (Photo Christopher Binding)

And Creates A Filthy Hole (Photo Christopher Binding)

And Keeps Creating Till He Fits! (Photo Christopher Binding)

Chris crawls over the pit to check out the newly discovered passage (Photo Mark Burkey)

Trip report: Jess Burkey

Present: Christopher Binding, Jessica Burkey & Mark Burkey

Friday 3 June 2016

Mendips Photography Competition 2016

After having my photographs lost for a couple of weeks I was starting to wonder if they'd turn up at all.
Fortunately they did and with the help of Dudley members we managed to get a few shots that won the competition for a 2nd year running with a triptych of shots.

Equally deserved shots came from Stuart Gardener awarded runner up with a great shot of Lucy Greenwood at the old 40 in Swildons and then Dave Watts took 3rd with a shot from Withyhill.

Nervous to be in front of the camera I found courage in the free wine provided and continued in the same vein at the Hunters Inn later that evening as Jess and I met up with others for the beginning of a great weekend celebrating Digest.

The winning images:

Jess at the Swildons 20ft pitch

Marc in GB main passage
Martin Grass at Pulpit Pitch. St Cutherberts Swallet