Saturday December 18th 2010
Lease Rigg Whinstone Mine and Christmas meal at Hutton-le-Hole
Cat, Gary, Laura, Matt, Wilky, Chuck, Ade
Note that members above were those on the mine trip.
The Christmas meal itself was attended by 20 people from our club and the North York Moors Caving Club.
A quick and easy trip around Lease Rigg Whinstone Mine provided just enough exercise to work up a thirst - and it was a good job too as we arrived at the pub nice and early, around 5pm, with most people having arrived by 6pm. After some quick elections we tucked into a superb meal, and for the first time in four years of being regulars at The Crown in Hutton-le-Hole, we were clean enough to be able to use the proper dining room! Once suitably filled we retired to the bar.
Hours of drinking then followed, then a chilly night (not quite a chilly as the -14 of last year, it was a blistering -10 this year). Deciding not to bother putting tents up, some of us slept in cars (remember for next time to leave the window slightly down or risk waking up breathing very deeply due to partial oxygen depravation). Most people however bedded down in a static caravan behind the pub which they had very kindly agreed to let us use, which was luxurious compared to a tent.
A greasy fry-up in Pickering on Sunday morning finished the event of nicely.
A great Christmas meal!
Saturday November 27th 2010
Rowten Pot (Gully Route)
Gary, Richard G, Simon, Matt
After sacking off Car Pot due to lack of interest, the focus of the day was to a somewhat easier option in the form of Rowten Pot. My initial thoughts were that I wasn't interested in <i>another</i> trip down Rowten but the suggestion was made by Rich that we give the newly anchored Gully Route a go.
The frost had well an truly set in during the night and despite a somewhat chilly removal of clothing at the side of the Kingsdale road, we were all in high spirits for the new (sort of) trip ahead. It was unusual for Kingsdale not to see a single other car parked, but perhaps others had either not made it up the icy hill from the main road, or had had the sense to turn back.
The crisp white walk up the steep hill yielded some spectacular views of Kingsdale in the snow and we paused for a moment to admire the vista. Onwards to the pot, where we found that the traditional route had been rigged by MUSC for the CHECC event, but with no sign of other cavers, we made a start on the rigging.
It took a moment to locate the anchors for this new route, but were soon on our way with some rather interesting but fun hanging traverses to the first pitch. Rich had gone off on his own to expore Rowten Cave, so meanwhile I made my descent, still in full daylight, and landed by the side of the waterfall. A few seconds later, my feet slipped from underneath me and I landed in a pool. The rock was slick with ice. Now came the challenge; to cross the water and reach the continuation of the anchors on the opposite wall. I was concerned about loosing my grip once again and been taken off the next pitch by the force of the water, but as it turned out, the wet rock was not as bad as the exposed rock.
More icy traverse lead to the head of the next pitch, thankfully now well away from the arctic spray. By now, the new route was feeling so different; I had almost forgotten I was in Rowten. A tight deviation dropped onto the next traverse where things started to look more familiar as I came to the main pitch. This route begins the main pitch about ten meters further down than the traditional route and several hanging traverse points lead out an around to the main hang running parallel with the traditional main hang.
Familiar territory again as the descent lands in the bottom of the main chamber before I headed off into another foreign part of the pot (for me at least). Traversing over the exposed hole at the bottom of the main pitch, I set off down several climbs to re-gain the water again at the head of the final pitch. This route bypasses most of the traditional pitch from the bottom of the main chamber; not something I had seen before. One more pitch and we were back on the traditional trade route to the bottom. Seeing as it was already rigged for CHECC members, we made use of the rope and saved un-packing our own. A quick drop to the bottom, down to the sump, then set off out.
Back at the waterfall on the first pitch I came across something I had never seen before. The whole rope had a several millimetre thick layer of ice over the whole length of it which had to be cracked off before the jammers had any grip! I didn't envy the de-rigging team trying to get it back into a bag!
Matt and I left Rich and Simon de-rigging and went back to the warm car. By the time we'd got to the bottom of the hill, most of our gear was totally frozen which made removing it a challenge.
The Gully route is a definite must if you like a nice stringy classic dales cave with a new twist. Well done to the guys from the CNCC Technical Group who made it possible. Probably not one to do in the wet!
Saturday November 13th 2010
Spectacle Pot P-Hangering
Mark, Gary, Matt
After our trip down Spectacle Pot in October 2009, this was a cave that was high on our priority list to return to â€“ and install P-hangers! Having completed the course, Mark and Gary were the installers and I was the bag carrier and general dogsbody! A team of Rich, Nikki, Cat and Andy also headed off down Vespers.
On our last trip we found several of the spits to be in very dodgy condition, and with the increased popularity of this trip thanks to the NFTFH guidebook, it was time to ensure the accessibility of this cave for the future (especially with the bottom trip of Vespers now P-hangered and an exchange being an excellent trip).
With four tacklesacks between three people, we set up a hauling line along Splutter Crawl, which worked well and all tacklesacks were efficiently passed through. Then the hard job of fitting ourselves through it began! The crawl last time was completely dry, and so it made it more intimidating with flowing water going through this time, resulting in a complete wetting from the off! However, with the one arm forward and one arm back approach we all popped through trouble-free (and in fact the water seemed to help lubricate us on our way).
Quick progress to the wet crawl â€“ which was very wet! We pushed through this, with tacklesacks jamming everywhere, and with water sufficiently high to force you to have to get your head quite wet in some extremely smelly and sheep-bone infested water! We were pleased to arrive at Doddâ€™s Pitch and expecting to be unwell the next day!
Not making the same mistake as last time, we found the rebelay one metre down, however, rope rub was unavoidable, and again it took ages to locate the flake deviation. By the time the pitch was rigged we were suitably cold, and looking forward to getting down there! We arrived down to the pitch to the Great Rubble Heap to find Cat and Andy coming down from Vespers (Rich and Nikki had already turned around).
We didnâ€™t descend this last pitch to the Great Rubble Heap but instead set about installing P-hangers, including two for a traverse down to this pitch head, and one for a single hang down to the floor, which seemed adequate. Doddâ€™s pitch was also hangered quicker than I expected, with two traverse line hangers placed, followed by a single bolt hang for a couple of metres down to a Y-hang above the main pitch. An anchor was installed for the deviation (just below the flake used previously), on the sturdiest looking bit of rock we could find â€“ of which there werenâ€™t many! This could also be used as a re-belay.
The drill batteries (and our energy levels) were now low and we decided to call it a day and return to hanger the first and second pitch tomorrow, but we were pleased that we wouldnâ€™t have to come back through the wet crawl tomorrow!
The wet crawl out was not pleasant, as we were all very cold and wet now and nothing could have looked more unappealing! At one point (the wettest bit near the end) I kept too far left and ended up with my head jammed between the floor and ceiling with water lapping against my mouth (I was pushing and pulling a tacklesack so couldnâ€™t see where I was going and had limited manoeuvrability). A moment of panic, but this was soon over and we were through the worst. We were out of the cave within an hour of this point, and at Bull Pot Farm for 9:30pm for curry and beer!
The following day we made short work of hangering the entrance pitch (one hanger backup, and one hanger on the wall opposite the knob for a clear hang) and the second pitch (one hanger backup near the ladder, and one above the pitch for a single hang). We were in and out in less that three hours, and very pleased with the job.
Therefore Spectacle should now be riggable for the foreseeable future, and provides a classic exchange with Vespers â€“ highly recommended, although if anyone has doubt about fitting through Splutter Crawl, they should try it for size from the surface size before committing to an exchange going down Vespers and out Spectacle! Spectacle is a great trip, and an efficient team should be able to reach the bottom in two hours from the surface, with an exchange taking approximately 4-5 hours.
The P-hangers follow almost the same line as the old spits, and therefore the rigging guide is relatively similar to that from NFTFH, however, it would be advisable to add an additional 10m to the length for Doddâ€™s Pitch and 5 m to the Great Rubble Heap pitch to allow for comfortable rigging with the new hangers.
Saturday November 13th 2010
Cat, Nikki, Richard G
Sunday October 3rd 2010
Matt, Gary, Laura
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.
Sunday September 12th 2010
Buckden Gavel Lead Mine
Sunday September 12th 2010
Chuck, Max, Richard G, Nikki, Andy
Saturday September 11th 2010
Cat, Chuck, Gary, Max, Nikki, Richard G, Matt
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.
Saturday September 4th 2010
Roaring Hole (P-Hanger Installation)
Tuesday August 24th 2010
Boulby Potash Mine
Andy B, Cat, Chad, Gary, Mark, Matt, Nikki, Richard G
Sunday August 22nd 2010
Large Pot as far as Necropolis
Gary, Matt, Mark, Laura, Toby Buxton
Sunday August 1st 2010
Week in Montenegro
Gary, Matt, Andy B, Richard W, Peter, Lee Vasey (SCC) Brian Duffy (SCC)
Sunday July 18th 2010
Croesor Rhosydd (mine)
Toby, Simon, Sarah, Max, Matt, Mark, Laura, Gary, Debbie, Chuck
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)
(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.
Saturday July 3rd 2010
Max, Sarah, Nikki,
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!
Saturday July 3rd 2010
Ogof Draenen (Gilwern Passage to Hearts of Olden Glory Streamway)
Matt, Gary, Chuck
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.
Not really feeling like *another* Draenen round trip we decided to investigate another area â€“ Strawberry Passageâ€¦ 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 didnâ€™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 weâ€™d been in Strawberry Passage but turned out weâ€™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.
Friday July 2nd 2010
Ogof Carno (To Whale Chamber)
Chuck, Gary, , Matt, Tash, Max
Carno, a cave Iâ€™d been looking forward to for ages, did not disappoint. It has to be the most unusual and interesting trip Iâ€™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 itâ€™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 â€“ Carnoâ€™s Last Stand with the way on down a hole in the floor at one end. At this point the water is entered â€“ weâ€™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 hadnâ€™t found it! It seems that the water was so low, we didnâ€™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 isnâ€™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 â€“ Knob Alley. The â€˜Black Mans Knobâ€™ 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 futureâ€¦ donâ€™t get half way down a 1.7km passage to find youâ€™ve left your car key at the other end! :p
Having not caved for a year Ogof Cano was a fairly harsh reintroduction, including plenty of flat-out crawling, stomping and climbing â€“ 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 â€œbase 2â€!
Our final destinations were â€œknob alleyâ€ and â€œwhale chamberâ€ 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.
Thursday July 1st 2010
Ogof Ffynnon Ddu
Max, Sarah, Tash, Chuck
Wednesday June 30th 2010
Ogof Ffynnon Ddu (Top entrance - Selenite Tunnel - Main Streamway)
Matt, Gary, Sarah, Max, Nikki
OFD is always fun but not sure Iâ€™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 Iâ€™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 Iâ€™ve never been to. Some quite impressive streamway but nothing overly interesting.
A fun but easy trip to start our week in Wales.
Saturday June 19th 2010
Dale Head Pot
Matt, Gary, Chad, Richard G, Max, Nick
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.
Saturday June 12th 2010
Lancaster Hole (Photography trip)
Gary, Mark, Matt