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Sunday October 3rd 2010

Rowten Pot

Matt, Gary, Laura

Matt wrote...

With the weather having been extremely wet all week, and heavy rain forecast for the entire day, we decided that a trip down Rowten would be fun and one of the few options open to us! We had the whole of Kingsdale to ourselves, with most cavers put off by the torrential rain. We didn't know whether Rowten would be passable to the bottom, but at least we know it was a relatively safe option (and it's been four years since I was last there, so I was keen to remind myself).

After a wet trudge up there, the roar of Rowten could be heard. We made a quick descent down the usual route (the south eyehole), to where the bridge was pleasantly dry. Water thundered away underneath, and we could see the fixed ropes of the new route in the main fissure thrashing away under a tremendous waterfall - it made it quite dramatic! For future reference, this new route is not the best place to be during flood!

We descended down, swinging into the traverse and rigging the full traverse. The big pitch was extremely impressive with all the water, however, the rope maintained a suitable distance from the waterfall, although with quite a bit of spray near the bottom. Our rope was only just long enough to swing onto the ledge at the bottom (see notes below). This ledge was a very drafty and rainy place (although with no major danger), and somewhere we were very glad of our new PVC suits! I wouldn't want to hang around here though - so we made a prompt start of rigging the next pitch!

We descended the next pitch, swinging around the corners at two rebelays to the final traverse. There was an enormous gale howling through the rift at the first corner rebelay, and lots of spray, making this an exciting, if rather chilly place to be! However, once round the corner and at the traverse, we were out of the wind and things became much more pleasant. We promptly completed the last pitch.

A faff-free return trip followed, we noted that the 'weather' on the ledge at the bottom of the big pitch had improved somewhat and it was nowhere near as drafty as on the way down (which I was thankful of, being at the back of the group). We arrived out at 6pm, having completed the trip in about 4.5 hours. Very enjoyable indeed! Rowten is certainly a spectacular place to be when water levels are very high, and it makes the trip rather fun if you have some thermals and a waterproof oversuit (you are never actually in the water, however, the spray is very heavy). I don't know if it ever becomes impassible - the water levels were very high but there didn't seem to be any problems or immediate risks.

Note that the rope lengths in the CNCC rigging guide are incorrect.

We used 50m rope for entrance to end of bridge traverse - this was fine.

We used 60m rope from start of second pitch (just beyond the bridge below the entrance), into the traverse and then down the big pitch - this was VERY tight (and we only just made down) - I would suggest a minimum of 70m rope is used, or a 30m rope to the end of the traverse and 50m for the pitch itself if you don't have a 70m rope.

I forget what lenghts we used for the last two pitches, however it would have been at least the length in the CNCC guide, and this was quite tight too. Therefore, add at least 10m to all lengths.

4th October 2010

Matt Ewles

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Sunday September 12th 2010

Buckden Gavel Lead Mine

Matt, Gary

7 photos by Gary...

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Sunday September 12th 2010

Great Expectations

Chuck, Max, Richard G, Nikki, Andy

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Saturday September 11th 2010

Robinsons Pot

Cat, Chuck, Gary, Max, Nikki, Richard G, Matt

Matt wrote...

A rather wet day saw the entire Dales in flood, and not surprisingly the river by Darnbrook Farm was a heavy torrent!

Nontheless we made quick progress down the entrance. This was an unusual descent, with the entrance being a manhole cover right underneath Darnbrook Farm, with the cave actually being underneath one of the rooms! Very unusual indeed (see photos!)

A superb and very unusual start to the cave all came to an abrup end when we arrived at the main stream passage, with the low crawl going downstream into the bigger sections. This was very wet indeed, with only a few inches airspace. Andy V bravely went through, but got completely soaked, and given the likelihood of water levels to be rising rather than falling, we declined to continue the trip.

A real shame to not be able to fully explore this cave, especially as permits are so difficult to get.

4th October 2010

Matt Ewles

17 photos by Gary...

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Saturday September 4th 2010

Roaring Hole (P-Hanger Installation)

Gary, Mark

16 photos by Gary...

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Tuesday August 24th 2010

Boulby Potash Mine

Andy B, Cat, Chad, Gary, Mark, Matt, Nikki, Richard G

10 photos by Gary...

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Sunday August 22nd 2010

Large Pot as far as Necropolis

Gary, Matt, Mark, Laura, Toby Buxton

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Sunday August 1st 2010

Week in Montenegro

Gary, Matt, Andy B, Richard W, Peter, Lee Vasey (SCC) Brian Duffy (SCC)

133 photos by Gary...

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Sunday July 18th 2010

Croesor Rhosydd (mine)

Toby, Simon, Sarah, Max, Matt, Mark, Laura, Gary, Debbie, Chuck

Matt wrote...

Report edited and updated following return trip in November 2011

Croesor Rhosydd - what an exciting adventure this was!

Sunday morning was not a pleasant one - heavy rain and winds pummelled the tent all night, and by morning, visibility was low and the weather was atrocious! This had not been forecasted and several people had consequently not packed as much waterproof stuff as maybe they would have liked! The drive to Croesor was equally wet with roads flooded and we were uncertain whether the water levels in the mine would have risen. One road into Croesor was blocked by flood waters.

We parked in Crosoer car park in heavy rain and got changed. Gary and I opted to walk up in boiler suit and waterproofs (after being very warm down the mine on our trip last year) while everyone else went with the full caving gear. Moral was a little low as we were pummelled by heavy rain as we changed and then walked up the hill. The walk up to Crosoer took about 45 minutes. I left my waterproofs in the entrance and opted to go through the mine with my undersuit, a thermal T-shirt and boiler suit, which subsequently proved to be fine, although full caving gear is also fine as you spend a lot of time just sitting around.

Following the entrance adit for several hundred metres reaches the first area of interest - an old brick built room in the corner of a wide open chamber. Further on, on the right hand side a short passage reached an enormous flooded chamber with a eerie lake of bottomless depths! Ignoring this and continuing ahead reaches a climb up a walled structure (with several in situ handlines) to the bottom of a long slope with a huge pipe down the left hand side. Following this uphill. several routes on the right lead to a drop into the previously seen massive cathedral. However, the way on is to follow the slope all the way to the top, where the first pitch is on the left.

The in-situ rope looked good, so we started down,using a system of light flashes to signify rope free (as a description we had advised against making sudden loud noises due to the unstable nature of this enormous chamber - car sized blocks of slate were poised to fall everywhere). I was last down the rope. About half way down the rope, I felt a sudden jolt, as a section of completely knackered rope, worn completely to the core, jammed between the rack bars. My heart rate shot up instantly, and still being 10+m from the ground I though the rope was about to snap and that I was a goner! Thankfully it held enough for me to force my rack past the narrowing in the rope where it was worn and I continued down past the dodgy section of rope very carefully. I was glad to reach the floor!

EDIT 2011: This rope is still dodgy, although the really worn section has been knotted out, requiring a knot pass manoeuver. Several new rope protectors have been added, plastic slabs bolted to the rock which makes the top half of the pitch more re-assuring. We recommend that any future trips rig your own 30m rope, which can be derigged by a couple of fast people running back in on the way back to the car later (you walk back via the Croesor entrance). Unfortunately the bolts are not well placed to allow for a pull-through.

A 150m scramble across the slate-strewn enormous chamber reaches a slope descending through a huge archway on the right hand side, the head of the second pitch. We knew the rope had recently been replaced here so were more confident in using it. EDIT 2011: This rope is still in good condition and several new rope protectors (more plastic slabs bolted to the wall) making this pitch much more reassuring.

Glad to be at the floor, the zip wire is reached only 30m downhill. Most people were already across by the time I arrived. The trip across the zip wire was tremendous fun, and uses a Petzl steel double-pulley (as metal wires shred alloy ones). The pulley is attached to the wire, and some string, cord, or even better, a fishing reel is attached which can be paid-out quickly as the person zips across, to allow for the pulley to be pulled back. It is important to weight the pulley with a few steel krabs or it flips up and gets stuck when trying to pull it back unloaded. An in-site rope provides a backup.

Beyond here a short boat trip across a flooded section (formerly the suspension bridge) (EDIT 2011: The bridge has now been raised and a boat is no longer required here).

Following the obvious stomping route on from here reaches after several minutes (passing through several chambers) the first of three bridges. This first bridge is the easiest as it has a wooden strut all the way across it, which can be traversed while clipped into an in-situ safety line. The second bridge has absolutely nothing to walk across at all and is consequently passed by using the pulley to zip across a wire line. (EDIT 2011: The second bridge has been completely re-rigged as a traverse around the right hand side of the water with rope and a metal wire to clip into. The second section of this is quite strenuous and is pretty much a hanging travese and requires hauling yourself on the metal wire so make sure you have good gloves).

The third bridge, the Bridge of Death is soon reached. Since our last visit, a section of railway track has been retrieved and suspended across the first half of the bridge, supported in the middle by rope to prevent too much bend. This can be traversed along, clipped into a rope as backup (although this was out of reach by the middle of the bridge, and so we put a sling on a steel Krab onto the wire to enable clipping into the sling hanging down rather than the wire itself). The second section of the bridge has nothing to stand on and must be done on the pulley and wire, again with a sling between the pulley and yourself because the wire is so high up and out of reach for most people. The pulley may be returned by simply flinging it back along the wire. (EDIT 2011: Not much change, though I think the middle bit of the bridge has been re-rigged slightly to make it easier and not quite as high). Crossing the Bridge of Death is a heart pounding experience!

Immediately beyond the Bridge of Death, the main lake is reached, where one must abseil 5m down a fixed rope into a waiting inflatable boat on a huge bottomless lake of pale blue water. The lake is approximately 30m long, and the boats are pulled from one side to another by an ingeneous system, by which some thick polyprop cord runs a full loop from the top of the rope, down to the water level and across the water and then back to the top of the rope. We found no boats waiting for us, however, on pulling on the cord, two in-situ boats appeared out of the darkness. We inflated Stingray II to create a third boat and attached it to the floatilla. Groups of three took it in turns to abseil into a boat, before being slowly pulled across the lake to a small slate beach at the other side. Once across, a short prussik up a fixed rope regains the main passage. (EDIT 2011 not much change here, pulleys have been added to make the system more efficient, and a floating raft at the bottom of the rope allows easier access into the boat. No in-situ inflatables, but a full size canadian canoe was found which required emptying of water before use).

Continuing along the main passage at the top of the rope passes two loose slopes up on the right hand side. Taking the second one is the way on (not sure where the first goes) and at the top soon reaches a wall where you cross over into Rhosydd mine. Following straight on through several big chambers reaches a slate collapse in the main onward passage, which must be carefully negotiated to pop out into a huge chamber with daylight/moonlight visable from above.

Five minutes of scrambling up the chamber towards the light reaches the huge and spectacular gaping mouth of Rhosydd mine and the pouring rain again. It was dreadful weather, with no more than 15m visibility and pouring rain. Water cascaded down every possible surface!

Getting out of the deep depression at the entrance to the mine is surprisingly tricky, especially as you assume that the adventure is now over. The mine entrance is on a shelf, approximately 6-7m below the main level of the surface, with few places where you can climb up. We found this difficult last time when it wasn't even raining and slippy. Si decided to attempt a grassy slope on the right approximately 30m beyond the mouth of the mine, which he successfully negotiated, while I carried on round the side of the 'shakehole' (with a steep drop on the left) for approximately 200m until a difficult (and very exposed) climb up a loose rock face enables an escape from the depression. I returned to the top of the slope to meet Si, and we threw a rope down to assist everyone else out (EDIT 2011: Once again, extremely difficult, the rock face 200m around the right hand edge of the depression proved the best route of escape).

All I can say next is thank goodness we had taken a GPS fix at the Croesor entrance! With almost no visibility and torrential rain we wouldn't have had a hope in hells chance of finding our way back to the Croesor entrance (or the car) across the barren featureless moorland. However, the GPS prevailed and within 20 minutes of squelching the slate tower at Crosoer mine entrance loomed out of the mist and we were back at Croesor entrance to retrieve our gear. We were soaking wet but thoroughly high spirited after such a truely superb adventure.

Essential equipment for the trip includes

(A) Steel double pulley.

(B) Selection of steel karabiners (to clip into metal wires, and to weight the pulley to prevent it flipping upside down when nobody is on it).

(C) Selection of slings.

(D) 40m of cord, string or fishing line on some kind of reel for very quick reeling out on the zip wire (this needs to automatically reel off so the person holding it doesn't get their hand ripped off when someone launches themselves across the zip wire).

(E) 35m rope and some krabs/maillions to rig the first pitch. 2011: In situ rope on first pitch is very dodge, but new rope protectors are good.

(F) Another 30m rope for other uses (emergency and also to escape the depression of Rhosydd mine if necessary).

(G) Inflatable boat with pump.

(H) GPS to fix the Croesor entrance - ESSENTIAL if you want to find your way home from Rhosydd!

(I) Gloves for everyone (metal splinters from wire ropes)


Simplified walkthrough:

(A) From the entrance adit follow obvious route then climb up the walled structure and to the top of the long steep slope.

(B) First pitch at top of slope on the left (30m rope needed, in situ rope is extremely dangerous).

(C) Scramble through huge chamber to second pitch under huge archway on right (in situ rope seems sound).

(D) Zip wire is immediately reached 30m from bottom of second pitch.

(E) 10m Lake is immediately reached (boat required) EDIT 2011: Boat no longer required as bridge has been raised.

(F) Follow obvious stomping mine tunnel for several minutes (via several very large chambers) to first bridge, easy traverse.

(G) Next bridge soon after 2011: Now a hanging traverse.

(H) Bridge of death is then reaches, combination of a travese and a steel wire with pulley.

(I) Final lake is immediately reached after Bridge of Death (abseil into inflatable boats/canoe and pull yourself across).

(J) Prussik up 5m in-situ rope beyond lake.

(K) Ascend the SECOND steep sloping passage on right.

(L) Follow main route past several large chambers.

(M) Crawl through a slate block collapse in the main passage (the only unobvious bit or routefinding) into final huge chamber.

(N) Ascend huge chamber towards daylight.

(O) Follow around the right hand edge of the depression for about 200m to reach a steep rock face that can be climbed to escape the depression.

(P) Turn on GPS to find you way back to the Croesor entrance.

21st July 2010

Matt Ewles

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36 photos by Chuck...

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Saturday July 3rd 2010

Dan-yr-Ogof

Max, Sarah, Nikki,

Nikki wrote...

I've been wanting to do this cave for a very long time, but never got picked out of the (unsurprisingly) massive hat. Yey for weekends with small numbers of people! Bit of a sleepless night the night before as I hadn't used my new phone alarm before and was paranoid we'd sleep in and miss the 10 am meet time! Luckily it worked, and we were at the cave by 9.40 ish, to meet our guide Brendan. A quick change hiding from tourists behind the car, then we were off through the dinosaur's legs and in!

Originally Brendan had thought it may be dry enough to go into the Mazeways (usually sumped) which would have been brilliant, but unfortunately the rain on thursday had made the water levels rise surprisingly high, so that was off. So we headed off through the showcave and over the fence into the caver bit, up the streamway and through the lakes, a pretty cool streamway in itself. Then into some dry bits, can't quite remember where we went here, but various passages, chambers, crawls etc til we got to straw chamber, and then on to the start of the long crawl. Shows how big the hype is for this bit, i didnt even realise we were in the crawl til halfway through! I can see how it would be hard for tall/broad people but I actually quite enjoyed it, nice smooth floor, not that long, and wiggly :). Popped out by the rope climb and ladder and down we went. We decided to go to the lower series first, then back via the pretty stuff. Next to the washing machine, rather wet looking, then on to Bakerloo, a really cool phreatic passage. This leads to Thixotropic passage, where we stopped to take some photos. These can be found at http://www.ogof.org.uk/dan_yr_ogof_survey.html and are really good!

Then on to the camel, an awkward traverse that none of us did, or a slightly squeezy wet bit, followed by the climb up the Abyss. This I really liked, very very big, and a fun rope/ladder climb to the top.This then leads via more cool phreatic passage to the start of the green canal. We decided to go further, up the the Rising and back. This part of the cave is all really huge! Some light traversing and more streamway, up to where the ladder (soon to be replaced) leads off to the SRT bits in the Far North. Would love to do this bit at some point. On the way back we explored Tunnel 2 for a bit, named for its similarity to Tunnel Cave. Then to the canal. I really really enjoyed the canal, swimming in a rubber ring and wetsuit in a cave is really fun! Wish it was longer! Also fun when Max almost cant get out of his rubber ring again, and John is too buoyant to swim!

After this came the pretty bits. Which really are very very pretty. Cloud chamber was beautiful, as was the still-forming crystal pool (traversing round it was scary in case we broke it!). Also really liked the random plant like helictites, and the Grand Canyon. Then there was nothing left to do but head out, where the water was noticably higher, and go to the tea shop :) but not before Sarah and John tried to expose themselves to passing tourists.

I really really enjoyed this cave, a little bit of everything I like, plus rubber rings and swimming! Lots of really beautiful stuff and huge passages and phreatic bits. Didnt want to leave, and must go back! Thanks very much to Brendan for taking us :) This cave is AWESOME!

8th July 2010

Nicola Gover (Nikki)

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Saturday July 3rd 2010

Ogof Draenen (Gilwern Passage to Hearts of Olden Glory Streamway)

Matt, Gary, Chuck

Matt wrote...

A little bit of a mistake in this trip, which was originally intended to be Strawberry Passage!

We headed down at midday via the pitch bypass to Cairn Junction. Looking at the survey (of which we only had a very small scale copy) it appeared that Strawberry Passage headed off to the north from Tea Junction. Sure enough, we found a passage heading off from Tea Junction which continued in a straight line for considerable distance (far further than suggested by the survey) past some fine crystal formations on the wall, eventually ending at a junction. From here, up a slope of boulders was a huge chamber with no way on (also not on the survey for Strawberry Passage), whereas straight ahead the passage had tape across and a note requesting we don't proceed any further due to delicate formations. At this point we were feeling pretty underwhelmed by Strawberry Passage, which despite its grandeur was nowhere near as pretty as we expected and nothing like what it appeared on the survey. Were we in the wrong place or was the survey incorrect?

We were about to turn back feeling somewhat disappointed and bored, when Gary went to investigate the route of a tiny trickling streamway into a low crawl. Minutes later he shouted to follow and we navigated a route through a hideous boulder pile to emerge in stomping passage again with a small stream and thick mud banks all around (unfortunately still with the ubiquitous marker tape that seems to adorn every passage throughout the cave).

Our adventure was soon rewarded with some fine straws, and then soon after a junction was reached. Bearing left soon closed down into wet muddy crawls and we were in no mood for getting down and dirty on this trip (being knackered after Ogof Carno the previous day). Turning right however went into some fine meandering stream passage, doglegging a couple of times before reaching a boulder collapse, finally providing us with the sense of adventure and exploration we had been wanting. A route down through the boulders, and up and over them was apparant by the presence of anchors, however, as we had no idea where we were (and our callout was for Strawberry Passage, which by this point we had decided we couldn't possibly be in) we declined any acrobatic stunts and called it a day, now feeling much more satisfied with our trip.

Of course, it wasn't until that evening reading the detailed 25 page description of Draenen that we realised our huge error. Strawberry Passage does indeed appear on our shrunken survey to head off in a straight line from Tea Junction, but in fact can only be accessed at higher level by traversing around the pitch bypass and Cairn Junction. We had actually adventured up Gilwern Passage and into the Hearts of Olden Glory Streamway. A return trip to explore the furthest reaches of this area is a necessity, and maybe next time we'll actually go to the true Strawberry Passage.

4th July 2010

Matt Ewles

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Gary wrote...

Not really feeling like *another* Draenen round trip we decided to investigate another area – Strawberry Passage… or so we thought!

With low water, the entrance was rather more pleasant than on previous trips with only a small amount of water going down the slot above the scaffolding. Still managed to get my pants wet though :)

Headed for Cairn Junction and signed in then up to Wonderbra and to Tea Junction with no problems. We sat at the slope just beyond Tea Junction for some time in awe of the vastness of the passage before heading into what we assumed (and the survey suggested) was Strawberry Passage. After a relatively easy start in the huge drive-a-bus-down-it sized passage, the going got a little tougher with constant up and down over slippery blocks for what seemed to go on for ages. We finally reached a Y junction with a climb up at the end. The right hand passage ended in a taped off area with some really nice formations and a strange flaked calcite floor. The left hand passage went up through boulders to a huge dry chamber which, after some exploring, we decided there was no way on.

By now we were all getting board at this rather un-interesting area of Draenen and headed back down the choke to the Y junction. Then we noticed a small, low crawl at the bottom of the slope and, despite being fairly sure that Matt had just peed there, I went off for an explore.

The obvious worn but small passage headed up through boulders to a squeeze with an enticing space beyond. I called Matt in case I needed pulling out then slithered through. The passage soon emerged in another large and very well decorated area with a stream flowing down it. This, we later discovered was the start of Hearts of the Glory Streamway. Following the taped area which kept us in the knee deep muddy stream passes some amazing 1m long straws before emerging a another stream way and Y junction. Following the stream left (down stream) got lower and we decided we didn’t want to get wet so opted for the right passage (upstream). A good distance of nice streamway followed before ending a boulder choke.

So what started as a rather mundane trip actually turned out to be really quite good. All the way out we still thought we’d been in Strawberry Passage but turned out we’d gone almost to the north most end of the cave.

I would defiantly recommend this area for a shorter, but interesting trip with some great formations. Judging by the amount of footprints, a seldom visited aera too. A return trip with a camera me-thinks.

7th July 2010

Gary Douthwaite

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Friday July 2nd 2010

Ogof Carno (To Whale Chamber)

Chuck, Gary, , Matt, Tash, Max

Gary wrote...

Carno, a cave I’d been looking forward to for ages, did not disappoint. It has to be the most unusual and interesting trip I’ve ever been on and I would recommend it to anyone. A good mixture of interest, easy and hard bits and a dash of excitement.

Parking right on top of the entrance we had no problem finding the obvious gated adit. The first thing that struck us was the echo. Really amazing as we heard our voices in the foreboding tunnel. Through the gate the passage extends for as far as out lights could reach with no hint of a turn or end. The first section starts with a large pipe running down one side so we were forced to walk in the small stream. After a few hundred meters, a dam is reached where the pipe turns. After the dam it’s possible to follow the tunnel out of the stream which was less slippery. Still no hint of a turn. We stopped at 1000m and looked back. The light from the entrance was still clearly visible. Still no hint of a turn!

The tunnel changed from time to time with the perfect brickwork ending and a change to mined rock walls. At about 1300m the spoil heaps at the side started and at 1500m we got to the sign-in book. At this point there is a deep pit on the right with winding gear on the left. After signing in we continued to 1700m where the dig spoil increased and the gap in the right hand wall leading to the natural cave was found. Even at this distance the light from the entrance was still clear.

Climbing down the mined shaft entered a small but not too bad blasted crawl to the head of a fixed steel ladder. The ladder ended in a large passage – Carno’s Last Stand with the way on down a hole in the floor at one end. At this point the water is entered – we’d heard about a duck and were expecting to have to get wet (or turn around) but after some distance and stepping out of the water we hadn’t found it! It seems that the water was so low, we didn’t even notice it!

Easy passage through Spongework to the Greasy Pot, which was indeed greasy! Slightly more awkward passage emerges in the impressive Dune Chamber, then on through some crawls to the head of Silo Pitch. Again, a fixed ladder but this time a normal aluminium extension ladder which had been cunningly cut and re-bolted back together to fit into the cave. More easy passage to the Brickyard where we found a rope hanging down leading to Over the Moon passage but we opted for the more obvious way on to Cough and Drop. This rather impressive passage offers a nice respite before entering Full Moon Crawl which actually isn’t so bad and only takes about 10 mins. The crawl is worth it as it emerges in a much larger area leading up to our goal for the day – Knob Alley. The ‘Black Mans Knob’ was, however rather un-impressive, but worth seeing, even just for the name! We managed to convince Chuck to pose for a photo with his mouth over it! A return route though Whale Chamber completed our trip before heading out for ice cream!

Defiantly one to come back to as we barely scratched the surface of the very extensive cave system. We all felt suitably tired afterwards, but there was nothing overly difficult in the route we took. The hardest part was probably Full Moon Crawl.

Tip for the future… don’t get half way down a 1.7km passage to find you’ve left your car key at the other end! :p

7th July 2010

Gary Douthwaite

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Tash wrote...

Having not caved for a year Ogof Cano was a fairly harsh reintroduction, including plenty of flat-out crawling, stomping and climbing – not to mention incredible amounts of mud! Even with a slightly faded caving memory it felt like a very distinctive system (of which we only scratched the surface!).

The entrance tunnel was truly remarkable; we were in awe of the intricate brickwork and straightness of it - we could still see the light some 1700m in. The entrance crawl led to the first ladder (with a fairly exposed pitch head) and then onto the water. We were expecting neck deep water, and were rather relived to leave the water having barely breached “base 2”!

Our final destinations were “knob alley” and “whale chamber” which despite living up to their names, were not exactly breathtaking (unlike the dodgy looking rooves in some of the chambers!). Nevertheless an interesting, physical trip.

7th July 2010

Tash Durham

25 photos by Gary...

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Thursday July 1st 2010

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu

Max, Sarah, Tash, Chuck

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Wednesday June 30th 2010

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu (Top entrance - Selenite Tunnel - Main Streamway)

Matt, Gary, Sarah, Max, Nikki

Gary wrote...

OFD is always fun but not sure I’ll ever get used to the navigation around Top entrance! We left the leading up to Nikki but still managed to go around in circles several times before finding the way to Maypole Inlet. Not that I would have done any better and it was nice to take a route I’d never been before with some interesting passage and formations along the way.

Almost no water in the main streamway so we headed up-stream for a while which is an another area I’ve never been to. Some quite impressive streamway but nothing overly interesting.

A fun but easy trip to start our week in Wales.

7th July 2010

Gary Douthwaite

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Saturday June 19th 2010

Dale Head Pot

Matt, Gary, Chad, Richard G, Max, Nick

Matt wrote...

We had a short but enjoyable trip down Dale Head Pot on Saturday.

The cave is very easy to find, and the obvious entrance shaft can be rigged from metal stakes and a single bolt rebelay just over the edge (hidden by foliage). The bottom of the 5m shaft is horrible, being home to several rabbits in various states of decomposition, and the smell was aweful. This cave would probably benefit from some kind of lid!

The scaffold shaft heading down is reassuringly well done and stable and is an easy free-climb down scaffolding. From the bottom, the low Heartburn Crawl heads off back underneath the scaffolding. Removal of our SRT kits was essential for this, as it involves several metres of very low and tight thrutching before opening out slightly, followed by a couple of minutes of awkward small passage to reach Boulder Chamber where SRT gear may be reapplied and the going becomes easy.

Following the obvious for several minutes reaches the first underground pitch - this is VERY awkward indeed, as the slot onto the pitchhead is narrow, and the Y-hang is right in the middle, restricting access. It doesn't look like it should be hard, but it is, particularly on return!

Once through, a nice couple of pitches follows landing in pool of water at the bottom - which I suspect gets rather wetter! Gary and Rich went on to rig the next few pitches, however, they didn't get far down before the quality of the bolts deteriorated, with most of them hanging half way out the wall, and one popping out in Garys hand! There were no safe ways to rig the ongoing main shaft and so we were forced to turn around.

We were out by 4pm, and despite being short this was a very enjoyable trip.

20th June 2010

Matt Ewles

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Saturday June 12th 2010

Lancaster Hole (Photography trip)

Gary, Mark, Matt

8 photos by Gary...

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Sunday May 30th 2010

Coolagh River Cave

Cat, Chad, , Laura, Matt

Cat wrote...

Fantastic trip!

A rather unpleasantly wet entrance followed by some mildly difficult traversing (for me anyway) led to some scrotty bedding plane crawls and canals to avoid the pitch at the end of Gour Passage. Definitely would not have wanted to be in there if there was any chance of rain. However on reaching the streamway - which I found quite reminiscent of OFD in places - there was much stomping and splashing and swimming – great fun! Getting out of the plungepool on the return required a bit of hauling from Matt! We went all the way to the terminal sump (quite pleasant, as sumps go) before retracing our steps back upstream and through the scary second bedding cave. Just after here, instead of taking the inlet we had entered through, we continued following the water upstream. At one point whilst in an oxbow we had to take a small and scary looking secondary oxbow on the left to avoid a dodgy climb up. Scary looking because it was full of straw and other flood debris. Slightly dubious that this was the way on we followed our noses and eventually found water again.

The canyon on the way out of Polldonaugh Swallet was pretty cool – looking up to see how the path of the water had dramatically changed over the years. Towards the end a slight navigational error caused by miscommunication led us to a bedding crawl with cascading water and a noticeable draft. We had a few moments panic when we thought the entrance may have closed up and we’d have to return all the way back to the Polldonough South entrance but on retracing our steps to where we guessed we’d gone wrong, we soon found the correct way on and within a few minutes were walking out of the canyon and back to daylight, hoorah.

NB. Entrance B9a appeared not to be blocked as Selected Caves states. Entering here instead would allow you to bypass the majority of the minging wetness at the start.

3rd June 2010

Catherine Moody (Cat)

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Matt wrote...

It was interesting to take a trip down Coolagh River cave again, as it was amazing how well I remembered certain parts from four years ago, and how badly I remembered others!

It was a lovely sunny day, we parked on the verge at the crossroads and walked down the road and across the field to the Polldonough South entrance, which is a grim wet wallow for the first several metres (interesting the entrance that bypasses this only 30m in appears to be open, contrary to the guidebook). A very long section of hourglass shaped passage with easy traversing then followed until the obvious drop down into column chamber, and then a slither down into Gour passage. I had forgotten about the long traverse, however, Gour passage was exactly as I remembered.

On our previous visit we had the tackle for the pitch to the streamway, so we headed left, however, this time we headed right, along several meandering and unobvious bedding crawls to finally reach the obvious narrow stream canyon passage that was the Polldonough streamway. Downstream, the second bedding cave followed, which became a low canal-like passage, bent over with water lapping at your waist, and this soon become flat out wallowing again to reach the junction with the upstream end of the main stream passage.

A magnificent stomp down the streamway then followed, and lots of fun in the deep plunge pools. As much fun as the water was, I'm not sure I'd ever want to be down here in the conditions that create the River of Guinness as depicted in Selected Caves - that would be terrifying, and the consequences of a flood are always obvious. We got to the downstream sump quite quickly.

Upstream again, and we returned through the Second Bedding Cave, to the junction where we originally joined the Polldonough streamway. Rather than following our route back, we followed the water upstream towards the Polldonough entrance. The Polldonough streamway is very variable, typically narrown canyon or crawling stream, with several side routes, however, most of the incorrect routes soon close down, and the best advice is to follow the water as best as possible. One bit where we went wrong was following the water, but this soon became very small and the correct way was a dry straw-covered passage on the left that we should have taken instead, soon returning to the water. After this another junction was reached, where both passages looked equally likely - we took the right hand route - I scuttled up the left one, which continued as a cobbled crawl for some distance, and probably reconnects further on.

Only 100m or so from the exit we had a slight communication error - Cat had started up a spacious passage, but then shouted back to Chad and I to ask if there had been any other way on from where we had just come, just to be sure we hadn't missed anything. I misunderstood and assumed this to mean that Cat had reached a dead end and we NEEDED to find another way. Sure enough, another way was possible, however, this went for 50-100m before closing down, with water cascading in over blocks, and a strong draft of fresh air! I though for a minute that the entrance may have collapsed, and started to contemplate a return journey back to Polldonough South. However, on return downstream, the miscommunication became obvious and we stomped out the spacious onward passage to daylight (a later look at the survey shows the passage we went up in error as coming very close indeed to the actual entrance and so the fresh air I thought I felt was probably correct).

Emerging into the forest we crawled through a dense pine tree area for about 100m to eventually find ourselves back at the road.

An excellent and very varied trip with a magnificent main streamway! The way out of Polldonough is quite long but makes for a more satifying trip. I'd quite like to investigate the possibility of entering or exiting through Polldonough North next time.

6th June 2010

Matt Ewles

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Sunday May 30th 2010

Faurnarooska Cave

Chuck, Gary, Thomas

4 photos by Gary...

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Saturday May 29th 2010

Cullaun Five

Thomas, Matt, , Gary, Chuck, Chad, Cat

Cat wrote...

I'm fairly sure the Selected Caves description for this cave was written by a very short person, as we very much disagreed with the statements of "walking-sized" canyons. The cave caused quite a bit of back-ache and was relatively uninspiring until near the end where we found some very impressive gour pools in some of the oxbows. Red Carpet Passage was also quite nice. Deciding not to bother going any further we turned around and headed back to the ladder pitch. Chuck, Tom, Chad and John ended up going the wrong way and followed Hunchback Horror for quite a way, not hearing my shouts that they were a bunch of numpties; serves them right for not bothering to wait for the rest of us! We exited the C5b entrance in the forest to avoid having to return through the nastiness between there and C5. Now covered in mud, we went for a splash in Cullaun 2 to clean off a bit.

4th June 2010

Catherine Moody (Cat)

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Saturday May 29th 2010

Cullaun Two

Cat, Gary, , Thomas, Matt, Chuck, Chad

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