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.