Saturday 18 November 2023

Wet, wet, and more wet: a trip to Giant's Hole

Mel, Dave and I had planned an easy trip down Giant’s Hole to the East Canal, so the SRT newbies amongst us could practice abseiling and climbing both Garland’s Pot and Geology Pot. The weather forecast was for heavy rain in the hours up to the trip, with it stopping in the morning before we went in. The heavy rain certainly arrived! Base camp chamber was full of water coming out of Sump 1, water was thundering down into Garland’s, and Comic Act Cascade had ceased to be a cascade: instead of falling downwards, the water shot sideways and hit the cave wall, like someone had turned on a fire hose. However, I always enjoy wet trips; in fact, the wetter the better (for me, at least!). Having abseiled Garland’s, we set off down the crab walk, before popping up into the Eating House and making our way to the traverses that led to Geology Pot. After making rapid progress down Geology, we rejoined the streamway and quickly came to the top of a 4m cascade. Again, the stream here was like a fire hydrant; neither Mel nor myself were that keen on tackling it and at this point Dave reminded us that our objective had been Geology Pot, giving us the perfect excuse to head back.

On getting back to the Eating House, the 3m climb up that eventually leads to the Giant’s Windpipe was pouring with water. We decided that it wasn’t even worth checking to see if the windpipe was sumped or not; there was no way it couldn’t have been. So back up the Crabwalk we went, though this time carrying ropes and SRT kit against the current of the stream. This was somewhat arduous, however we all helped each other out, with Mel helping me shift one of the bags through the tight spaces, and Dave taking over part way along the Crabwalk. Comic act cascade quickly arrived; ironically the bottom half of the ladder was the driest place to stand; the top half less so and the best tactic was just to put your head down and climb up through the horizontal blast of water. Eventually we arrived back at Garland’s Pot, where we ended up queuing to climb out (another group had been daft enough to do Giant’s Hole today, too). After Garland’s, an easy plod out led back to the car and a quick stop off for a drink on the way home.

All in all, an absolutely fantastic trip: wet and vertical; what more could you want?

Club members: Dave J, Mel B, Dave B
Trip report by Dave B

OFD: My first ever caving trip

So my name is Rebecca and I signed up to Dudley Caving club, after having visited some show caves for the first time in the summer. I'd never thought about the activity before, and after a discussion with the team at Ingleborough, I thought i would love to give it a try for real. And OMG what a fantastic experience. Mark, Keith, Ian & Jes were all so welcoming and encouraging of me as a newbie on my first trip and i left that evening feeling "Did I actually do that". I didn’t feel any fear being down there, it was quite calming actually, like why haven’t I always done this. There were so many beautiful sights down there, the waterfall was my favourite. Not without its challenges though, facing a deep drop has taken some processing mentally. I can't wait to get back to it though it was so much fun.
Trip report & photos: Rebecca Guy

Friday 27 October 2023

Ogof Draenen: Out of the Blue (Saturday 21st October 2023)

The original plan had been to carry dive kit into Wet Sink for George, however days of rain – and an unsettled forecast – led to some umming and ahhing about whether this was still possible. In the end, the decision was made to abandon Wet Sink for today (very wisely, in my opinion!), and to visit Ogof Draenen instead. Mark, Joel and George viewed it as a chance to tick of part of the cave they hadn’t visited before: Out of the Blue.
When we eventually reached this kilometre of streamway, Mark pronounced it to be one of the best decorated streamways in the country. Although it finally ended in a big boulder choke, getting there involved passing a beautiful profusion of straws, stalactites and helictites. This made the treacherously slippery streambed (which couldn’t be seen as the water was peat-stained) worthwhile, although after losing my balance for the umpteenth time, I may only feel that way in retrospect! Overall, a great trip, and a cave that I will definitely have to return to and explore more.
Cavers Present: Mark Burkey, George Linnane, Joel Foyster, Dave & Anne Bell
Trip Report by Dave Bell
Photos by Joel Foyster

Monday 16 October 2023

Maskhill-Oxlow Through Trip (Saturday 14th October 2023)

Given the success of the club's recent weekend at Heightworks, what better way could there be to put newly acquired (or perfectly honed) SRT skills into practice, other than a trip into Maskhill and Oxlow mines? Seven of us embarked on the trip, with two "new hands" (including myself), being experly supervised by five "old hands". After meeting and kitting up in a blustery Peak District layby, we split into two teams, with Graham, Dave and Paulina heading off to Oxlow, and Firas, Bartek, Jas and myself heading up to Maskhill. Firas was first down the shaft, leaving the rest of us to stand in the biting wind. Fortunately, it had dropped a little, and it wasn’t raining. In fact, it was a beautiful sunny day, but I think all of us were pleased to get out of the sun into the warmth of the mine. We were soon dropping down pitch after pitch, with Firas ably rigging the first half, and Bartek the second. Each time I lowered myself off the head of a pitch onto my cowstails, I relished looking down into the gloomy darkness, imagining what was beneath. It didn’t take much imagination, as it was invariably rocks and mud, but going deeper and deeper into the mine brought a real enjoyment and excitement. Before long we arrived at the top of the Waterfall Pitch, where a fixed tyrolean helped us to abseil across the top of a very deep, very dark hole. Once safely on the other side, one pitch remained until we met up with Graham, Dave and Paulina. It was then time for pizza and sweets (great energy food!) before setting off, and up out of Oxlow. (I note that while people sniggered at me bringing pizza on a caving (mining?) trip, their mirth didn't stop them from eating it...leaving me with one slice of pizza rather than four. Nevermind!) At this point, I was very grateful for the energy, as Prussiking up the ropes was much harder work than I remembered from practising at Heightworks / the mill. The tackle sack clipped to my harness didn’t help, of course; it seemed to pull me down with every upward movement, and reaching an awkward deviation was a real pain. Some words of advice from Bartek sorted me out, and it was with some embarrassment that I realised that no-one else seemed to struggle with the tackle sacks or deviation. So we’ll put it down to me having rubbish technique. Of course, that just means more practice is necessary, which means more caving trips…so rubbish technique does have some advantages. After dumping the bag on Jas (not literally, although I was tempted when I saw him looking up from the bottom of the pitch), Prussiking became much easier, and it felt like no time before we all popped out of the top of the shaft, where we saw Paulina and Dave coming across the field to meet us. There was time for the obligatory selfie (although Firas had the right idea, and walked off before this happened), before heading back to the car. Overall, a fantastic trip, and (for me) the first of (hopefully) very many SRT adventures underground.
Group members: Bartek Biela Paulina Biela Graham Smith Jas Sahota Firas Fayad Dave Williams Dave Bell

Aquamole Pot to Kingsdale Master Cave

In 1974 legendary cave diver Geoff Yeadon was the first to pass the 168 metre sump upstream from Rowten Pot. He discovered the impressive 40 metre high Aquamole Aven.

Geoff retired from cave diving in 1997.

Aquamole Aven was finally connected to the surface in June 2002.

A trip beginning by descending Aquamole Pot, as it is now named, to exit at Valley Entrance is now a classic through trip for cave divers and is considered to be a somewhat of a right of passage for the new generation of underwater cave explorers. In spite of his underground discoveries in Kingsdale Valley it was a trip that Geoff Yeadon had never been able to do. 

However, on Sunday the 6th August 2023, Geoff supported by a team of over 20 cavers and cave divers, was persuaded out of retirement to complete for the first time this classic descent and cave dive.

This video is a taster for a forthcoming video showing what happened on the day.



Sunday 1 October 2023

Dudley Caving Club SRT Training at Heightworks

With grateful thanks to Heightworks, Wolverhampton for allowing us to use their fantastic rope playground.



Monday 1 May 2023

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 1 to Cwm Dwr through trip

In Celtic tradition, the 1st of May marked the festival of Beltane, when Celts changed from the dark season to the light season. What a better way to celebrate the return of light than to spend the day underground!

Jess and Mark led us on a trip from OFD 1 to Cwm Dwr, through streamways, boulder chokes, and crawls. We saw numerous calcite formations along the way – straws, drapes (‘bacon strips’?) and helictites; enjoyed the sections through the Letter Box and down the Diver’s Pitch; and luckily no one got stuck in the concrete pipes out to the Cwm Dwr entrance!

Cavers: Jess (leader), Mark (leader’s assistant), Jas, Arjun, Alex, Stirling, Eloise

Trip Report: Eloise Cambier

Boulder Chamber



Diver's Pitch


Diver's Pitch

Diver's Pitch


A Caving Slipper

 


An excerpt from a well-known fashion magazine:

“The first piece in our Emergency Couture Collection is the Caving Slipper from the House of Biela. 

 It was conceived in Dan Yr Ogof; the magnificent show cave of Wales.  A group of cavers had just finished a photo shoot in the ephemeral Cloud Chamber and planned to complete the classic round trip by crossing the Green Canal.  This 100m long watercourse is stunning to look at – and also stunning to cross as it is dangerously cold, and those who try to swim through it risk hypothermia and drowning through exhaustion.  To avoid this cave explorers make use of sleek circular inflatables to help them maintain buoyancy across the canal.  However in this party, one of the cavers became so cold that her left wellington boot slipped off and was lost in the deepest section of the crossing. 

Thankfully, acclaimed designer Bartek Biela was present.  He wasted no time in reclaiming discarded pieces of diving equipment and transformed them into this multi-layered, insulated caving slipper.  It demonstrates a beautiful harmony between functionality, comfort and style, with the delicately sculpted toe piece referencing the crakow – a tribute to House of Biela’s Polish heritage. 

The casualty, Anne Bell, told our reporter “It was a real privilege to be the first to wear this amazing creation.  It was definitely worth losing a welly for.”

Aided by the caving slipper the party were able to make a swift return to the surface, avoiding any need to summon a rescue team.  We hope to see it becoming an essential part of all cave rescue training soon.” 

The Caving Slipper

Cloud Chamber

Flabbergasm and the Crystal Pool

Trip Report: Anne Bell
Photos: Bartek Biela
 

Saturday 15 April 2023

OFD, The Trident, The Judge and much, much more!

On Saturday 15th April Mr Edwards and myself continued the indoctrination of two young potential DCC members (in years to come) namely Abigail & Finn. Indoctrination is probably an incorrect description as having had several caving experiences before, they are already well versed in the rituals surrounding a trip, such as breakfast at Luigi's in Abergavenny and tea and cakes afterwards.

Having completed the first of the onerous rituals i.e. breakfast, on a beautiful sunny morning we set off from SWCC at around 11.00 heading for OFD top entrance. Finn was master of the keys and let us in and we progressed at a steady pace towards our objectives. From very recent experience Keith advised that the route through the 'Brickyard' was well polished and potentially rather slippery so we continued ahead via White Arch and the passage below Speedy Caver, and here began caving proper, hands and knees stuff.

We soon arrived at 'Gnome Passage’. Some videoing took place here aided by tow of Keiths super bright torches.  The next stop was the 'Wedding Cake’, a notable landmark on anyone's route.

We made our way down to the infamous 'Corkscrew' and for safety reasons used a lifeline to lower Finn & Abigail through the small hole to avoid following to more hazardous usual route which the rest of us had to take. 

Onwards and downwards to  reach the water of Salubrious, squeals from Abigail as cold water flowed over and into her wellingtons, Finn was more properly equipped with wet socks, a pair of which Abigail will have shortly. 

Something new for Finn and Abigail, Traverses, but the confidence of the youngsters was clear to be seen, led by Keith and with Asher placed below in the water to catch anyone should a slip occur Finn was off first followed by Abigail. We continued along Salubrious before turning left to reach the 'Trident' and round the corner the 'Judge' made all the more impressive by Keith's  lighting whilst more videoing took place. Time was still on our side so after a quick chocolate break Keith added a short extra to the route. We took the alternative route back to Salubrious which passes below Pete’s Pretty Passage - Keith. Abigail and Finn both enjoyed this extra bit as they had no trouble negotiation a squeeze just before arriving back at Salubrious to once again tackle the traverses with even more confidence from the youngsters, again with the same safety precautions in place of having a 'catcher'.

With Keith's amazing knowledge of OFD we took a different route up form the waterway to emerge at the rope previously used to lower the children but this time to assist them in the climb up with Finn going first, and then we all tackled the steep climb up. The children led the way out and successfully took us past the ‘Wedding Cake’ and into ‘Gnome Passage’. We exited via the Brickyard and back in the entrance passage there was an opportunity for some more video work.

At this point we met two guys who were undertaking a challenging trip through to Cwm Dwr, challenging we thought because they were working from a description and had not been in OFD before, we wished them well.

Abigail and Finn moved on well ahead of us and got to the entrance with Finn opening it up with daylight streaming in, only for it to slam shut just before we arrived, were the intrepid pair trying to tell us something? We opened the door again to step out into the glorious day that we had left behind earlier. Pausing for a moment to take it all in we were joined by Mr Mark Burkey 'photographer extraordinaire' and some of his photographic group who were about to enter and were just waiting for Jess and a couple of other to join them which they soon did, so a good natter ensued.

On the way down to SWCC we met Sue and at the cottages soon changed for the journey home via Greggs on the A40 for tea and cakes.

Ian Millward.

Caving party, Keith, Ian, Asher, Abigail & Finn.

Along for the ride, Sue.

Monday 10 April 2023

The Ballad of the Crystal Pool

 Twas a mizzling drizzling Easter morning
(The Met Office had issued weather warnings)
When five intrepid explorers prepared to set off
For adventures deep within Dan yr Ogof. 
 
Now cavers are canny, and while brave beyond doubt
They tend to choose caves that will let them back out:
So with thunderstorms threatening the waters to rise
They refocused their sights on a different prize.
 
Nearby in the kingdom of Ogof Ffynnon Ddu
They had heard of the magical Waterfall Series:
A pool filled with crystals, a black calcite chamber - 
But the journey would be filled with unparalleled danger!
 
Yet our cavers were armed with more than just courage
They had brought with them Keith - a fountain of knowledge
And that wily cave wizard was ably assisted
By the valiant Loz, so on they persisted.
 
The first challenge was the streamway: it was gushing a torrent
Those swept away would meet with a fate most abhorrent.
But Keith was not fazed – he knew the most secret paths
To avoid the black stream and it’s inevitable baths.
 
They went down the Dugout, through slithering crawls
Over terrifying traverses (risking neck-breaking falls).
Through the airy hall of Pie Chamber and rolling back down
To the dazzling passages where selenite abound. 
 
They scaled Lowe’s Chain back down into the stream
And had a look at the sump (water levels to glean)
It was safe to proceed so they ventured onwards again
Up past the waterfall into the series it names.
 
So close to their treasure - and yet they must remain bold
For they still need to scale a rift that is lacking in holds.
They udged and grudged up; the rift thinner and thinner
The cavers each wished they had forgone their dinner.
 
Until, at last, out!  The long sought treasure they see!
The most beautiful corner of Ogof Ffynnon Ddu?
The pool it did sparkle, with crystalline whirls
Reflecting the o’erhanging stalagmite twirls.
 
Down a tunnel to the right, by using athletic gyrations
The cavers reached a room with black calcite formations.
(Only the smallest made it to this final display
The others vowed to diet and try again some day).
 
They took only photos and tales to be told
With beers around fires to ward off the cold.
And maybe these tales will inspire others to seek
The yet undiscovered wonders that wait in the deep.

Trip report by Anne Bell

Saturday 8 April 2023

Corkscrew Chamber

Destination: Corkscrew Chamber (Aggy)

Cavers: Loz (leader), Anne and Dave

I’d wanted to go to Corkscrew Chamber ever since I’d seen photos of the Courtesan, so when Loz offered Anne and myself a trip there, we jumped at the opportunity. After arriving at Whitewalls and chatting to a few of the (very friendly) members, the three of us started the plod along the old tramroad to the entrance of Aggy. We made quick work of the entrance series and the first boulder choke, and were soon walking along Main Passage to the start of Southern Streamway. This passage always seems like very civilised caving – a wide, open passage which you can stride along, with only a couple of points where you need to stoop.

Loz led us to the start of Southern Streamway, and there the striding stopped, to be replaced by a mixture of stooping, hands-and-knees crawling and shuffling. Although it wasn’t Main Passage, it certainly wasn’t as bad as the horror stories I’d heard. We made quick progress to the second inlet where we stopped for a quick drink, and then continued down towards Waterfall Chamber. This section was definitely the crawliest part of the streamway, but being fresh it didn’t phase us. Before long, we’d reached the rope up out of the streamway that leads to the start of Priory Road. After a fair bit of crawling, we eventually reached the start of the final passage to Corkscrew Chamber. This involved some fun, tight s-bends, which Loz guided us through, and before long we reached a short climb up and a polished entrance to a tube that looked too tiny to fit a ferret into.

What do you do when there’s a rather unnerving tight section to be navigated? Answer: send your wife first, of course. After a few minutes of udging and grunting, Anne got to the end of the tube and reported that it closed down. I breathed a sigh of relief, as I really didn’t fancy trying the crawl. My relief was short-lived, however, as Anne suddenly announced “I’m stuck!” Fortunately, after a few (anxious on my part) minutes of back-and-forth, she managed to find a way out and popped out of the tube. (Anne later reported that getting stuck had been great fun; as I’d been waiting helplessly unable to see her, that’s not quite how I remember the event).

A few minutes later, and Loz had ably located the entrance to Corkscrew Chamber. In she went, followed rather inelegantly by myself (I got stuck with my body half-in, half-out of the squeeze like a half-birthed walrus) and finally Anne. The formations in the chamber really are breath-taking: pure white, intricately twisting and beautifully delicate. 

After taking the decorations in for a while, we started the long journey back. We were pushing it for time, so when we got to the streamway, Loz went ahead to cancel the call out, while Anne and myself made our way (rather more slowly) out of the cave. Here the horror stories about Southern Streamway began to make sense. It seemed to go on forever and ever, and the crawling, shuffling and stooping seemed a lot harder than on the way in. Eventually we reached the second inlet, and not too long after that, the first inlet. All of a sudden, we emerged into the connection with Main Passage. It was a great relief to be able to stand up and stretch out, and the walk along Main Passage was a real pleasure. Making swift progress through the first boulder choke, we hopped, skipped and jumped through the entrance series, emerging nine hours after we first went in. All in all, a great trip which was well worth doing. Our thanks to Loz for being our (patient and capable) leader.

Tuesday 4 April 2023

 

Alderley Edge Copper Mine Trip

Sunday 2nd April 2023

 

It must be getting on for 10 years since Dudley Caving Club last visited Alderley Edge Copper Mine, a leader led trip courtesy of Derbyshire Caving Club who look after the mine.


Sadly our numbers were depleted on the day by a variety of unforeseen circumstances but what we lacked in numbers was made up by enthusiasm from the seven of us.

We met Nigel our leader in the National Trust Car Park as arranged and after the formalities we set off heading for the West Mine. Nigel is a most affable fellow with a sense of humour akin to ours, could this be common throughout the caving community? His knowledge of the geography of the mine was amazing it seems that if you were to blindfold and stand him anywhere, remove the blindfold and he would know exactly where he was and the way on. Likewise his knowledge of the history of the mine and its workings and the appalling conditions that probably mostly men worked in brought the whole trip to life.





Our party of 7 contained with one exception, me, well-seasoned experienced cavers so in theory something of a walk about for them, but in reality, what the mine lacked in challenges it more than made up for with spectacular colouring and awe-inspiring human effort in excavation. Witnessed by the many Ooh’s and Ahars. Although easy walking compared to a normal cave the rest of the interior was very cave like in its shaping compared to many other mines. Oh and everyone had a go at ‘using’ the ‘Toilet Seat’ and if you want to know what that means, do the trip!



The West Mine is entered down a ladder via a hole in the middle of a field, in reality it is a lot more sophisticated than that but the ladder and hole are correct.

Nigel gave us a thorough tour which lasted considerably longer than expected, for several reasons, he made it so interesting that there were lots of questions at numerous points, plus being cavers as opposed to the Public tours, he gave us the full work out and of course we had a Photographer amongst us, well worth it when you see the pictures.


That full work out included the Engine House Mine a separate but shorter trip but with a big impact on everyone especially our photographer who could have played for hours. There was talk of a tasty through trip for another occasion. All in all a satisfying experience and exceptionally clean caving kit to come out with.

Our thanks to Nigel for leading us so well and to Derbyshire Caving Club for looking after the mine. As some actor once said “We’ll be back” well almost that and we won’t leave it so long next time.

Trip members. Mike & Lucy, Bartek & Paulina, Firas & Zeina and me.

Ian Millward

   

           

Saturday 25 February 2023

Stoke lane stocker the return

Present:

Mark, George, Loz and Jas


As Some may know, my caving partner in crime, George, took a bit of a tumble a couple of years ago, and so we have been doing regular trips getting him back up to full strength. Whilst discussing what to do this weekend he mentioned that he wouldn’t mind going in to Stoke Lane as he fancies diving in there in the future. It’s been 9 years since I last took a camera in there, in fact that trip was one of my first blog posts on UKC, so I agreed to play guide if he agreed to put up with photos….so our plan was made. 

 

I emailed out to ‘The Dudley’ to see if I could recruit a couple of others and we were joined by Jas and Loz.

 

We had all decided on wetsuits under our caving suits and were glad we did when we reached the entrance to find the water tumbling down over the lip. George had been to take a look a couple of weeks ago and said that levels had been a lot lower then, but I assured the group that I had previously done the trip at much higher levels and the weather had been settled the day before and no rain was forecast.

 

On the way in the going was straight forward and the heavy camera box floated gently beside me for much of the entrance series, and through to the Nutmeg grater.  After squeezing through the short contortion, we reached the duck before the sump. The water levels, as expected, were up and the duck itself required a short splutter of water over the face to pass. I headed through first, followed by George, Loz and Jaz. The sump pool looked as uninviting as ever and we nearly lost Loz when she saw the muck floating on the surface. I had brought a mask so went through first, then passed the mask back and was followed by a spluttering Loz, then George and finally Jas.

 

There ensued a couple of hours of photography in the stunning Bone, C.B, Main chamber and throne room before heading for an uneventful, though arduous against the water, exit.

 


    C.B Chamber

 

   Main Chamber


   The Throne Room

 

                Stoke 2 Main Stream Way

 


                Entrance to Bone Chamber

 


   Bone Chamber





Thursday 16 February 2023

Finding All Bran in OFD

Having found myself with an unexpected day off, I decided to join Mark and Mr. Edwards on one of their jaunts into OFD for some route finding. The destination was the Nynth Bran Series, which has a lot of passages, but is slightly off the beaten track and rarely visited. 

 

We squirrelled up and down passages, trying to make sense of the survey and trying to dissuade Mark from disappearing into the tighter, more dodgy sections, until we ran out of time. We came very close to the Prokoviev series, which brought back a few memories! (See blog from ages ago). 

 

We left a large section of the Nynth Bran series to explore another day, and headed back via the Labyrinth (hint - it wasn't the shortcut I thought it was) to exit the cave into sunlight.




Trip report Jess

Present: Mark, Keith and Jess


Saturday 11 February 2023

Craig a Ffynnon

A trip into Craig a Ffynnon was to be our next trip this year. The plan being to reach the Hall of Mountain Kings. After meeting for breakfast at Luigi’s, we headed in and enjoyed the decorated ceilings that greet you early on near the entrance. We continued our way through to the bottom of the ladder where we rigged a simple lifeline to assist our progress up to the bottom of the corkscrew. Alex made good work of leading us up and out into the main chamber, which at this point it was a slip and slide all the way to the hall. After staring at the magnificent formations for a while, Alex and I crawled our way into the next section for an explore, until turning back to meet back up with Lucy who we’d left having a picnic back in the hall of mountain kings. On our return to the corkscrew, we passed several members of the ‘Caver Keith’ fan club that had travelled up from Cardiff Uni for the day. We stopped and chatted for a while then went our separate ways. On our return to the entrance, and as water levels were looking favourable, we also ventured into the Northwest Inlet for the first time too. This was another successful trip that resulted in a post trip debrief with Ronald at the golden arches! 

Trip Report: Mike Bonner

Photo: Alex Hayes

Present: Alex H, Lucy, Mike Bonner



Wednesday 1 February 2023

Caver Keith Tackles the Birth Canal in Cwm Dwr Quarry Cave

Another mid-week trip with the usual team of Keith, Mark and Loz.

Loz, "When shall we three meet again? In passage, chamber, Keith's a pain?"

Mark, "When shenanigans are done, When all hope is lost and gone."

Keith, "That will be ere the set of sun."

Loz, "Where the place?"

Mark, "Birth Canal Series."

Keith, "There to shake hands with death."

With apologies to William Shakespeare.

This time our plan was to go into the Cwm Dwr entrance of OFD to explore the Sand Banks area and as much of the Birth Canal Series as possible. All objectives were met and we even had time to make a short video.

Keith exiting the Birth Canal

And here a short teaser for the upcoming video.


Here's the completed video.




Saturday 14 January 2023

Agen Allwedd

With the plan to get our caving year off to a good start (and to introduce a new member to the underground world) Lucy and I decided to stretch our legs/backs with an easy trip down to the Music Room. After meeting at Luigi’s for breakfast we entered the system for around 11am, and with our newest member Alex leading the way we entered the 1st choke in good time. One by one we popped our heads out into Baron’s chamber and slowly made our way down to the music hall where we had a good explore of a number of the adjoining passages, including the cliffs of Dover. Once we all regrouped, we retraced our steps, nearly missing our re-entry to boulder choke 1 and slowly made our way out. With smiles all-round, we headed to McDonald’s for more food!

Trip report: Mike Bonner

Photos: Sterling 

Present: Lucy Bonner, Alex H, Sterling, Mike Bonner








Friday 13 January 2023

OFD Moonlight Chamber

Another mid-week caving trip. This aim this time was to explore all of the passages surrounding Moonlight Chamber, somewhere I had last visited about three decades ago.

As Loz now knows the trade routes through the system we diverted off the trade route and bypassed The Brickyard. At White Arch we diverted again and explored some of the White Arch Series - passages that Mark and I thought were new to us, until it dawned on us that we had explored them just last year.

Emerging at the bottom of Speedy Caver we then took the Edwards Shortcut route to Cross Rift and soon we were at the climb up to Moonlight Chamber. Last week when we explored the passages behind Shatter Pillar we found a well decorated, taped-off passage. This time we found the other end of this passage. I must return and take some video.

After Moonlight Chamber we proceeded to Midnight Passage where we knew that there are high level passages leading to the far side of Moonlight Chamber. The climb up begins at a rift to the right-hand side of the pool that leads to Northern Lights. These passages have seen very little traffic over the years and great care is needed as there is a lot of loose rock, everywhere! We explored the whole of this area and were able to look back down into Moonlight Chamber at the level of the huge white stalactite which hangs down from the ceiling. This is an area that really only needs to be visited once!

On the way out we stopped to make a short video, something we'd first tried out last week.

Here's the result.


Cavers: Keith, Loz and Mark


Thursday 5 January 2023

Route Finding in OFD

The aim of the trip was to explore the passages between Moonlight Chamber and Shatter Pillar and hopefully find a connection.

However on the way in we decided to look at the passage which starts at the squeeze down at the bottom of the Corkscrew. A right turn off this passage leads to sand crawls which link to the passage between The Judge and Swamp Creek. Mark struggled a little to get through the squeeze - a result of too much over indulgence during the Christmas festivities. We ignored the right turn and continued along the passage which popped out above a stream. The stream is Salubrious but upstream of the Corkscrew! The connecting passage goes round in a complete circle - something one is not aware of, and it is quite disorienting. I've attempted to mark this on the survey segment below.

Mark then discovered another passage branching off from the one we had just come along. He set off leaving Mel and me some way behind. The passage had to be traversed along. Soon it became quite tight but a climb down a hole in the floor led to a lower level passage. Which way had Mark gone? We could hear him calling but couldn't determine which direction his shouts we emanating from.

We climbed down and soon found Mark coming back towards us. Apparently he was trying to communicate to us that he had climbed up onto a boulder pile and wasn't sure he could climb back down safely.

We now had no idea where we were. Both Mark and I didn't recognise the passage. We continued forward passing branch on the right and came to a tricky climb up. Mark climbed it. After dithering for a few minutes I followed prompting Mel to call it 'flying pensioner' climb. Mel followed.

Mark was ahead again and shouted back to us. This time we could hear what he said, "I know where we are. I've just popped out into Chasm Passage." To say we were a little confused was an understatement. How had we got here? To show Mel exactly where we were, we set off along Chasm Passage as far as Timo's Table.

It's been several years since either Mark or I have been to OFD 3 but we both remembered that one of the linking passages from ArĂȘte Chamber to Chasm Passage popped out into Chasm Passage roughly where we had recently emerged. So where was this passage? We set off to find it.

Eventually it dawned on us. The passage we are looking for was the passage we had just come out of, one we had negotiated many times but failed to recognise. We had no excuse. Now knowing where we were it was a simple task to go back along the passage and down 'flying pensioner climb, but instead of climbing back up we continued along and popped back into Salubrious exactly opposite where we had left it some time ago, thus completing another part of the OFD jigsaw and proving just how difficult it is to navigate one's way through parts of OFD by just following the survey.

After this we set off on our original mission and headed for Shatter Pillar. Behind Shatter Pillar we took the passage that leads to the squeeze down into Lugubrious Passage which we crossed over, and soon we found the connecting passage to Moonlight Chamber. Mission accomplished.

From Shatter Pillar we took a passage which connects to Cross Rift. In this passage we took a little bit of experimental video for a future CK production. The filming was completed in a Mark-sized passage just past The Crossroads.

Mark in the tight spot.

A serious discussion.

A need a Haribo!

Intrepid Explorers: Loz Appleby, Mark Burkey & Keith Edwards