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.

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