Saturday 17 February 2024

Peak Cavern Novice Trip

For February's Dudley Caving Club trip, our destination was set to be Peak Cavern. With regular check-ins on the weather and water levels, it wasn't always a given, but we got the green light Friday evening and assembled at the TSG at 9am Saturday.

There were four of us on the team today, Becky, Myself, Mike, and Mark Burkey - Super we might get some snazzy photos! 😃 This was Becky's second outing with the DCC, so the plan was to take it steady through Peak Cavern and see as many of the beautiful phreatic tubes as we could. Snapping some photos along the way.

After kitting up at the TSG, we took the short walk up to the Peak Cavern entrance - and what an entrance. Britain's biggest according to the survey chart! We'd managed to beat a gaggle of Uni Student cavers bound for the same cave and steadily made our way through the show cave entrance. The trip started on a high, with the theme-park-style slide down to a lower level of the cave. After a short walk following the streamway, the roof starts to lower and the trip officially becomes my wettest cave trip yet. We wade through waist-deep water (Mucky Duck Choke), as Mark explains this area had been dug out by past cavers to extend the passage. At the same time, divers were looking at other routes to continue the cave. Once we get through this watery walk, we arrive at Surprise View. Apparently, this is where both the divers and cave diggers breakthrough into the same "new" section on the same day.

If my memory recalls, the cave passage opens up a little more, into a mixture of winding paths, keyhole tunnels, and of course the awesome phreatic tubes. There were a few key areas Mark wanted to photograph, so we stopped and got a few shots. Not the first time I've been photographed in a cave, yet I still don't know what I'm meant to do with my face - 🥴. After trying my best to look "normal", photos are taken in this section, and we continue on through the passages.
Throughout the journey, Mark points out various offshoots, and potential sump dives. As a budding cave diver, I'm loving the insight into all these potential dive locations. Even more so, given how crystal clear the water is! We made our way down a ladder into a really cool whirlpool room. The water flowed in and around the beautifully cylindrical room and then exhausted the other side. It's surprising how forceful the water gets when it's funneled into such a small opening.

We took the phreatic tubes all the way along Lake Passage to Ink Sump. Once again, we were met with crystal waters and I felt an overwhelming urge to go diving. Although I'm sure I'd feel a little more exhausted if I'd had to carry all my dive gear in this far. We opted to take the dry muddy section to Ink Sump, versus the head-under-water shortcut, probably wise as some of the party were starting to get colder.

As we made our way back through the tunnels, we stopped again for a photo at a small junction. Thankfully I was instructed to look away from the camera (should I be offended?) and Mike had his modelling turn.
I've probably forgotten some details in this section, but eventually, we made it back to the ladder, and it was Becky's turn to model. Proving that the back of my head is more appealing than the front, I once again gave the background a sense of scale - desperately keen not to drop Mark's strobe in the flowing stream way.
After we all safely ascended the ladder, it was a case of retracing our steps up and out of the cave system. One final stop at the (weir?) to have a little scrub and de-mud ourselves to walk back through the show cave. Heaven forbid the cave tourists find out there's mud inside the caves! 😱

After a mixture of delight, shock, and bewilderment on the tour group's faces, we made our way back to the TSG. Everyone was safe, happy, and somewhat warm!
Trip Report: Jon B
Photos: Mark B
Cavers: Mark, Mike, Rebecca & Jon

Monday 12 February 2024

How Not to Get Lost in OFD 2


The ever-welcoming staff in Luigi’s were surprised to see Caver Keith back again on Monday 12th February - the very next day! He had spent Sunday 11th leading a series of exploits in OFD with a very proficient caving team. This time he was back with a couple of cavers who really do need some supervision. Dave and Anne had asked Keith to teach them the trade routes around OFD 2. They were keen to learn the first lesson of successful caving: make sure you have a decent breakfast.

The next lessons were much more complicated. After successfully locating Top Entrance, the pupils went exploring along the usual tourist trails, trying to remember which turn goes where and becoming thoroughly confused. They think they went through the Brickyard, into Gnome Passage, past the Wedding Cake, down the Corkscrew, along Salubrious to the Crossroads. They took a diversion down Maypole Inlet to see where the streamway connects for a possible future through trip. Back on the normal round trip, they went into Cross Rift and were dutifully shown the ways on into Moonlight and Midnight Chambers.

After going to Selenite Tunnel via Shatter Pillar and hopping over President’s Leap, the pupils were then left in charge of finding the way back out. After much head scratching, and one correction from the Master Caver we’re mostly pleased to report that all three made it successfully back to daylight.

The final lesson of the day was how to get the heavy metal door to shut – it turns out you need some brute force…

Cavers: Keith, Dave B, Anne B

Sunday 11 February 2024

OFD 2 to The Trident and Judge

Just inside the Labyrinth

The day started at Luigi’s cafe at 9:00 there was a big breakfast to fill me up for the cave ahead. After we finished up for breakfast we drove an hour to the caving club here is where we were greeted by Asha, our caving companion to help us for the trip ahead. We got changed and geared up. The hardest part was up climbing the hill -this would be easy if it was not for the massive warm fluffy suit I was wearing. As we unlocked the door to the cave, light filled the dark gloomy passage as moths flew from out of it.

We entered the passage with our head torches on, as we walked further into the cave system we spotted the Wedding Cake, this is a beautiful rock formation, the sight of the cake gleamed at me in my torch light and made me hungry! The pot hole was up next, we got helped down this hole to what looked like a 30 metre drop down next to it. This was not a trip for the faint-hearted as we traversed, crawled and climbed, but it was all worth it to see The Judge. My torch light brought out colours I had never seen before. This was not some dirty old rock, this was beautiful. Pinks, purples and reds had been illuminated by my light.  Next was The Trident, this was a huge stalactite with lots of pointy ends. Here is where we had are half way break.  

The way out must be the easiest, but in fact it was the hardest. After resting your body aches and you cannot be bothered to go on yet you still persevere, you go on and as soon as you see the exit your eyes light up brighter than any torch glad of the fact of you didn’t get lost as the sun light filled my face my heart began to play a tune of resting and tiredness.

PS. This was so much fun. Please can you take me again. Finn your favourite grandson.

The Trident
The Judge

A crystal pool in Salubrious Streamway

Traversing in Salubrious

Traversing in Salubrious

Glad to be out

Let me out!

The Team




Thursday 1 February 2024

Ogof Pasg to Ogof Foel Fawr

Kayleigh had recently completed this through trip with Natasha, Mark & Keith. Presumably without her camera as she decided to lead this return trip to rectify those missed photographic  opportunities.

We scrambled up through the quarry and into the cave entrance, rather a blessing to be out of a bitter wind blowing across the area.
Good progress was made until we reached the climbdown where upon a similar situation arose  to that in March 2014 ie the safety line wasn't quite long enough. The big question is, had they lowered the floor or raised the roof? Magic was worked that would have made Paul Daniells proud, perhaps "Not a lot" as he used to say but we all made it safely down and on towards the canal.
It was here that Kayleigh's Peli case was opened and flash guns placed. Some poor soul was now required to be the 'model' standing waist deep in cold water and who else did she chose, (perhaps in revenge for previous videos in cold water) none other than our very own videographer extraordinaire Mr Keith Edwards AKA Caver Keith. All went well with the photo session and fortunately the deep water masked Keith's now very blue legs.
 
There is an interesting slide down a tube into water with a left turn at the bottom and then a roll to the right to squeeze up through a narrow opening and onwards towards the infamous "Slab".
Natasha went through with a question on exiting "What squeeze?" Others of us tried and found middle age had taken its toll and the alternative route beckoned. As many have found before alternative does not equal in any shape or form EASY but we all got through and continued the crawls amid a distinct draught so the end could not be far off. We emerged into light rain with that wind still present and made our way down to the parked cars to change into something dry and warm. All in all a good trip revisiting one of the classic routes.

Keith in the Canal Freezing his N*** Off
 
Present -  Kayleith, Natasha, Keith, Mike & Ian.

Saturday 20 January 2024

Agen Allwedd: The Music Room & Aven Series

After a successful Pre-Christmas DCC trip into GB Cave, my second DCC outing was to be in South Wales, Aggy, or Agen Allwedd if it's in trouble. In the roster was Mel, Anne and Dave leading the cohort through the cave, left left left were the directions. After an uneventful walk to the cave (although there were plenty of ice patches and icicles), we wriggled into the entrance and negotiated our way through the entrance series.



We were treated to see several clumps (apparently colony is the collective noun, thanks google) of tiny bats littering the rooftops, which is always a treat.

We made our way through a boulder choke, which I think was a first for me, and quite enjoyable apart from my cave bag catching things at every opportunity. After the narrower sections of boulder chokes, the cave eventually opens out into the Main Passage. A large tunnel, flanked with the remains of silt and mud from years gone by. Dried and cracked, with some sections sprinkled with selenite crystals (once again, thanks google).



At this point Mel and Anne had shot off ahead, so myself and Dave meandered down the Main Passage, with the music room our destination. At some point, we met back up with Mel & Anne, they'd been off somewhere else that escapes my mind (Erse Passage perhaps?).



After a while we hit the Music Room, complete with a music stand and sheet music to a well known classic. Who knows who felt motivated to bring that with them, especially through the boulder choke!



We stayed here for a while, choosing to take on some food and drink and I was equally happy & surprised to see my steak bake had survived the pounding, almost too well.

From here we headed onwards, with the Aven Series our next port of call. In one section we found some little mud figurines, showing the cavers who came before us are not just musical, but also talented artists. My particular favourite was a mushroom, which was just next to a mobile number, with each number modelled in the clay-like mud. I resisted the urge to shuffle the numbers around, although I doubt there's much signal down there to call :D

We retreated a little from the figurine tunnel, and found another offshoot which was to be my tightest squeeze yet. A walk in the park for most cavers I'm sure, but for a novice like me, it was a little testing. With no room to progress forward with my arms, it was a case of small ankle movements to creep along the mud tube through to the next area. With Dave assuring me "it's not that bad", I shuffled swiftly, trying to convince myself small spaces are fun. In this next room, Dave found an onwards route, but after a cursory inspection I decided I'd reached my wriggle limit and chose to hang back whilst the trio carried on.

It's always difficult to understand time in a cave, especially when you're exploring a new area you've not been in before. That's for Mel, Anne and Dave. For me, I'm sat with my own thoughts in the dark "I wonder if they're coming back?", "how long has it been?", "how far do I dare walk around before losing where I am?". I chose to stay fairly close to the bag drop location, marked nicely by a large pile of rocks, and checked out the crystalline walls for a while.



After seemingly an eternity, just before I lost my mind, I heard the comforting sounds of cavers shuffling through tight spaces. It was probably only 20mins or so haha. The gang was reunited once again, but this time our destination was home. Just in time really, as I was starting to get cold after my solo sit in. The trio had actually found a little loop, and "surfaced" further up the section we were in, but thankfully had returned the way they came, to collect their belongings, and me :D

Trip Report and Photos by: Jonathon Bellman
Cavers: Jon, Mel, Dave and Anne