Sunday 24 February 2019

Navigating The Deepest Cave In Britain

Some Route Finding and Learning Surveys.

Having been with Dudley Caving Club for around 5 or 6 months, and getting plenty of trips under my belt, I recently decided its time for me start learning some of the main cave systems with the hope of starting to lead trips toward the end of this year.

The obvious place to start had to be Ogof Ffynnon Ddu. This system seems to be a regular retreat for DCC and for obvious reason, plenty of cave to go at and plenty of drinking opportunity! Having been only 3 times previously, two through trips and some poking around/route finding with Loz and Mike in top, I felt very vaguely familiar with OFD 3.

I put out the email and had one response, from Mark. If I was going to get us lost, Mark was certainly the right man to point me back in the correct direction! I arrived very early Saturday morning, deciding I couldn’t be bothered to get up early and make the meet time of 10am that I had decided on. After waking up to a beautifully sunny view across the mountains and making a brew amidst the eerie silence that was a sleeping, hungover uni society, Mark arrived. We had a short discussion and decided on a through trip from Cwm Dwr to Top Entrance. I’d never been in Cwm Dwr before, so this was a little bit of a drop in the deep end for my first navigation trip!

I purchased the necessary parts of laminated survey, and after mark pointed our intended route out on the full survey in the common room, we got changed and made our way over the the Cwm Dwr entrance. The first warm sunny day I have ever walked to a cave, and it was only 2 and a half minutes away!

After dropping down the concrete chute, I basically managed to go the wrong way before getting into the entrance series. I missed the right turn following the water and climbed straight up into the choke. As I realised it didn’t go, I turned to see that Mark had followed me, but he didn’t have his camera box with him. This confirmed to me that I had already gone wrong! A bit red faced, I made my way back down and pulled out the Cwm Dwr survey, only to find that the entrance series wasn’t on the sheet I had with me. Mark led on through the entrance series until we hit the choke, when I took over. Taking it slowly, picking my way through, we emerged into Big Shacks. I was already finding it difficult to match specific features in the cave to the survey, as the Cwm Dwr sheet I had was not coloured. Or this was my excuse. Mark pointed out the way forward on the survey, and we moved forward.

Passing through Big Shack 1, turn off the right between two left turns which head to Big Shack 2, we were on the main route. The cave itself was easy going at this point. We pressed through to the traverse which cuts out the 100 meters or so of walking passage. Here I had a bit of a wobble trying to pass the very exposed deep hole, but eventually managed the quick couple of long steps over and we carried on through to take the shortcut through to Piccadilly, converging with another small group who seemed a bit lost!

We stopped to take some photographs at the waterfall approaching Piccadilly. Thankfully I wasn’t too wet so didn’t get cold for these ones! Stopping every so often to check the survey and orientate myself, we cracked on through Piccadilly and round into Flood Bypass. No real dramas here until I went the wrong way at The Confluence. Mark gave me a few seconds and then, not wanting to turn to add an extra half an hour onto the trip, decided to let me know that actually it was Right, not Left!
Picadilly Waterfall
From here continued upstream, stopping to get cold and take more photos at the Marble Showers.
Then it was the pots, 15 or so. All deep enough to get very wet and some wide enough to have no choice, but I did manage to not fall into any of them! I’m not sure about Mark, although I’m sure might not have mentioned it if he had...

Marble Showers

Missing the exit off to Great Oxbow, but quickly realising that I didn’t fancy going underwater, I turned around and saw mark waiting at the climb out of the streamway. After some more photos at a traverse over some white water, we made it to Maypole Inlet, which I have only done twice, once up, once down. Mark was struggling/swearing a bit with his camera box through here as it was a little bit too large to be comfortable in the narrow passage. Passing another lone caver going in the other direction, we both made it up the 35-foot climb without too much bother.

Main Stream Way

I was fairly confident from this point, having been through a couple of times - and the coloured survey helped! An uneventful march up to the Crossroads followed by mark getting a bit excited about finding a small passage into the maze which he hadn’t done or didn’t remember. He did an excited loop and we carried on up Salubrious passage, through the corkscrew and onto pass the wedding cake. Some boulder scrambling through Brickyard later we emerged into the low sunlight at about 4pm.

All in all I a successful trip for me, I went wrong a couple or more times, but Mark was there to set me straight!

Sunday morning saw a rapid round trip in OFD 1, as I had never done it before. As a self-proclaimed non-fan of traverses, Mark lent me some Cows Tails for them. Turns out they were not as bad as I thought they would be and so didn’t bother with them. Out, back and changed for 11am, we managed to make a brew and get that down us before the students awoke, then off home.

Present: Mark Burkey, Joe Watkiss

Trip report: Joe Watkiss

Friday 1 February 2019

50K Subscribers

Earlier today I gained the 50,000th subscriber to my YouTube channel at Channels with more than 100,000 subscribers are awarded a silver wall plaque.

In January my subscribers went up by 2,448 - my largest monthly rise, if you exclude July 2018 - the Thai Rescue month. If this trend continues then I should be able to claim my award by the end of 2020. I've already reserved a space on the wall.