Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The twelve days cavers of Christmas

Trip dates: December 12th-13th 2015
Authors: Claire and Duncan

SWCC: Mark Burkey, Jess Burkey, Helen Hooper, Duncan Hornby, Andy Jones, Brendan Marris, Jon Tatton, Claire Vivian, Phil Walker, Jo White (& Dan).

SUGGS: Derek Cousins

This is a dark Christmas tale of long journeys (12 hours for Claire), human endurance (freezing one's ass off) and cake. The story begins in the hobbit town of Hardraw… The fellowship of cavers met at Ye Olde School Bunkhouse of Hardraw run by 2 SWCC cavers/hobbits Helen and Andy.


The group arriving at about 7pm moved to the undisputed world champion of pubs the Green Dragon. Camped in front of a roaring fire, mugs of ale and 7 hours of motorway driving stress to release we drank beer and discussed our assault on Moria.

Our original plan was an exchange trip between Grange Rigg and Christmas Pot but the weather (clearly caused by Sauron throwing a wobbly) had put an end to that idea as the forecast was rain and snow. New plans were hatched and people were divided up into groups.

The road from Hardraw to Ingleton, in places the snow was so deep it could cover a whole hobbit!


It was the Middle Earth Gaping Gill system for the whole team on Saturday. Getting changed at Ingleborough Hall in the rain was distinctly unpleasant, the sole advantage being that the rain limited the faffing.

Changing in the freezing rain at Ingleborough Hall. With zero faff everyone was kitted and ready to go in minutes!

Given the size of the group, 3 trips were possible. There would be a rigging and photographic trip into Christmas Pot, a Flood Entrance to Small Mammal exchange trip and some members of the group were also able to take advantage of a pre-rigged Bar Pot for their entry to the system (thanks LUSS!).

The long walk up, which took around an hour, got more pleasant as time went on and we got warmed up as we chatted and walked. It was a very pretty area to walk in and it was good to look at Clapham, wander past Ingleborough show cave (which had plenty of visitors as it had been turned into Santa’s Grotto) and see Trow Gill.

Small Mammal/Flood trip

Helen and Andy were the first to set off with their descent of Small Mammal, then Jon, Phil and Claire headed to Flood Entrance and Duncan, Derek, Mark, Jess and Brendan went off to Christmas Pot. Last, but not least, Jo and Dan descended Bar Pot. We all started around midday.

This was my first visit to Flood, though Phil and Jon had both been there before on several occasions. My early impressions were very favourable as it was distinctly warmer inside the entrance than standing outside in the snow, being buffeted by the wind. Jon had elected to rig, Phil and I helped carry the rope.

The first pitch (15m) had a quite snug take-off (a slot in the floor), and my tackle sack was determined not to fit through the opening without some rearranging, then on to an easy re-belay on a ledge. This was soon passed without a hitch. Then came quite a few metres of mainly hands-knees crawling before the second pitch which was around 20m. Again, no problems encountered here. In fact, it was all going so smoothly that something had to go wrong fairly soon. Some small cascades were met next and these then took us on to the final big pitch, 38m, in South East Pot, along and through a large waterfall.

The first thing to go slightly wrong was when Jon could not find the first deviation and ended up rigging one from a piece of red cord looped around what looked like a chock stone part way down. He descended successfully and shouted up to me and Phil that one of us should look for the missing deviation on the way down… at least that’s what we found out he said later on, as at the time we couldn’t work out what the message was over the roar of the waterfall. I was next down. I had been standing on a ledge around 9m below Phil at a re-belay for a while getting cold. Now it was time for the big pitch. Reaching the level of the deviation, I could see this was not going to be completely straightforward as it was way out of my reach and I needed to pull myself towards it. As I pulled I could see the rope coming towards me through the deviation. Not good. It soon stopped this as I’m guessing it was then tied at the bottom of the pitch. Opening the deviation krab was the next problem as I couldn’t feel my fingers at this point. So after some considerable faffing, this was finally passed and I descended to the bottom of the pitch, through the waterfall. The others pulled me over to the ledge and then I tried to abseil slightly lower but I must have pushed the handle of the Stop in too far as it sent me into free fall to the ground. It was only 4-5 feet, but I still have a lump on my head to prove it happened and remind me not to do it again. Unsurprisingly, Phil made it the base with no problems whatsoever.

We met Jo and Dan here as they had caught up with us from Bar Pot. They told us that Andy and Helen had seen the waterfall and not fancied prusiking up through it, so had gone back to ascend Small Mammal again and were then going to descend Flood and de-rig above the waterfall. Jo then led the way to Gaping Gill main chamber. This was seriously impressive. When we got there, there was a massive waterfall completely filling the shaft. No daylight was visible. Spectacular. We then headed out via Small Mammal. We were fortunate to have 2 ropes on the big pitch up (around 30m) as our LUSS friends were still off exploring so this made things faster. All happened without incident until we had some route finding issues finding Small Mammal after the Greasy Slab and then communication errors. We thought Jo and Dan were going out of Bar, so began to de-rig Small Mammal. Then they both appeared at the bottom of the de-rigged Y-hang. Ooops. This was quickly rectified and they soon joined us. As this had been going on Helen and Andy had returned to give some bad news - the water had risen and they were unable to retrieve Jon’s 70m rope from the 3rd pitch in Flood Entrance. Following a mildly hypothermic walk back to the cars - OK, we also sat down and had some fun sliding down some of the snowy slopes on the way back to the path - we changed as quickly as we could manage with frozen fingers and then headed to the New Inn to wait for the Christmas Pot cavers. It was around 5pm by this point, so we were a bit surprised that the others were not already at the pub as we had expected them to finish before us. 5.45pm came and there was still no sign of them, so we begin to get slightly worried. However, not for long as they all walked through the door at 6pm.

Christmas Pot trip

Derek lead the way to Christmas Pot, we turned right after the style and followed the wall. At some point along we headed away from the wall to the entrance, located in a small sink hole.

Duncan and Derek at the Entrance of Christmas Pot.

I had asked everyone if I could rig the trip, to gain experience in the presence of people with far more rigging experience than I. The pitches are beginner friendly,with convenient ledges to stand on and easy access. Initially everything went well as I rigged each P-bolt. I eventually came to a Y-hang and did a bunny ears knot, when I loaded it, it started to slip. Derek who had been keeping a watchful eye suggested redoing it with a figure of 8 and alpine butterfly, a configuration I was aware of but had never done. So keen to impress I did this and cocked it up then got myself well and truly knotted up! At this point I had become aware of Christmas Carols echoing down from above as Brendan, Jess and Mark hung around trying to keep warm.

Un-knotted I descended the rope and just at the wet splashy part of the pitch my descender jammed up with kit pulled out of the tackle bag. I had reached the 1m from the end of the rope knot and this knot had stopped me abseiling off the end of the rope. So that's why people put knots in ends of rope! At about 1.5m from the floor I had to swap over to my ascenders go back up to the Y-hang, pass this, turn it into a single figure of 8 knot to give me the extra metre. Whilst at the Y-hang the Christmas carols turned into Christmas curses...

The next section of the cave involved contorting our way through crawls to end up in a chamber with a dry-stone wall and a climb down to the next pitch head. This climb involved an awkward entrance over a 5m drop. I insisted on having a handline put in place and attached my petzl stop and thrashed around trying to reverse into the top of this climb. I was pleased to see everyone else found it as awkward as I had! It was easier to climb up and out but I would recommend a handline when trying to get into it.

The second pitch and it’s several rebelays went better with everyone joining me quickly at the bottom. We were at the point where Grange Rigg cave joined Christmas Pot. We went downstream and immediately entered a very pretty section of the cave. We passed through this to get to the end. Mark and Brendan headed back to the pretty section and I poked around in the end chamber and found the way on to the next pitch. This pitch was taking a lot of water and I decided against descending it as it would have just been a total wipe out!

Catching up with the others, Mark and Brendan did their photo magic and captured some excellent photos.

© Brendan Marris 2015, Derek in Christmas Pot Stream way

© Mark Burkey 2015, Derek in Christmas Pot Stream way

© Brendan Marris 2015, Duncan in Christmas Pot Stream way

With photos taken and constant shivering setting after standing around in the stream way for 30 minutes we headed out. Derek de-rigged whilst the other blasted their way up ‘n’ out.

What had been nothing more than trickles on the way in had turned into small streams. Whilst each pitch was fairly short and in some cases it was easy to keep out of the water this option got progressively limited with the final pitch just metres away from the entrance turning into a full on shoot of water which you had to prusik up through! I emerged out into the freezing night soaked. Mark had been a trooper and hung around in the bitter cold and we waited a further 20 minutes before Derek finally popped out looking like a drowned rat.

We quickly gathered our stuff and marched off the mountain to meet the others. I was surprised to see only our cars as I had expected the others to have been longer. Had I really been that slow at rigging, apparently so! We quickly changed and headed to the New Inn pub and found the others huddled in front of the wood burner. With everyone accounted for we were all beaming away and recanting our tales.

Eventually we headed back to Hardraw, went straight to the pub for a superb meal, huge puddings, lots of beer and several renditions of “Wonder wall” sung by a bunch of pissed up cyclists from Huddersfield trying to out sing the folk band next door!

Trip time (from car park and back): 6 hours

The team tucking into some well earned grub!


Sunday...despite much planning the night before everyone got up to a truly winter scene and thought….naaaaa not caving today!

View from the Bunkhouse

As a complete distraction to the cold reality of outside we managed to entertain ourselves with a bit of rope tying.

Duncan, Mark and Brendan practising knots

Breakfast included a healthy dose of rope tying... 

With time whittled away we headed our separate ways. Some of us headed over to Ingleton to meet up with Jo and Dan for one final coffee and cake at Inglesport cafe before heading home.

Ribble head viaduct and snow covering the hillsides

Jo, Dan, Duncan and Derek at Inglesport Cafe

Monday, 14 December 2015

OFD1 in high water, 2.12.15

Paul Tarrant, Dan Thorne, Claire Vivian

When the weather has been bad, and the river is bound to be high, where better to go for an evening trip than OFD1? To go along the Escape Route and watch the water from a safe distance was on the agenda tonight.

We met at 7pm and headed in to OFD1. The first indication of high water was the raging river flowing in to the area below the Fault Series. I had not seen this flowing before, let alone have whitewater. The closer we got to the Toast Rack, it was noticeable that the sound of raging water was actually behind us, rather than ahead. Strange. Standing on the edge of Pluto's Bath, things were far quieter than normal. Popping around Pluto's Bath for a quick look, the reason for this became apparent. There was foam everywhere and the river had backed up in to the bypass. There was a mass of black water flowing in to the sump and the water was now moving up the passage towards Pluto's Bath.

Moving on to The Step, the alcove you usually drop down into to measure the depth of the water could not be seen, water was flowing over the top of it. The whole cave seemed to be vibrating with the sheer force of the water.

We crossed Bolt Traverse and entered the RAWL series. There were more small cascades than normal here. But it was when we reached the scramble down towards Low's Passage that the difference was more noticeable. Shortly after passing the climb up to Starlight Chamber we could hear a river thundering away in the distance. There was a raging torrent at the bottom of Low's Chain. It was pure whitewater with waves breaking on the left-hand-side of the passage.

Dan and Claire watching the torrent of whitewater at the bottom of Low's Chain. Photo: Paul Tarrant.

The week after this on Thursday 10th December there was an evening cavers' Christmas curry at Tiffin in Ystradgynlais attended by 10 local cavers: Steve, Alison, Paul, Vaughan, Catrin, Andy, Antonia, Dan, Lisa and Claire.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Whitewalls weekend: Knee-knackering crawls, cool formations and mud!

Trip dates: November 28th-29th 2015
Authors: Claire and Duncan

Group: Mark Burkey, Jess Burkey ( trip leader), Mark Hampson, Duncan Hornby, Helen Langford, David Mullin & Claire Vivian

Mark, Duncan, David and Claire arrived on Friday evening at Whitewalls, the CSS club hut. We all had our mini-adventures getting there that evening with delayed trains and the A465 shut for road upgrade. Friday also seemed to mark the beginning of a miserable weekend of weather, so nothing new for Wales!


Saturday’s trip was to be the Daren Cillau through trip entering via the classic crawl in and exiting out of Ogof Cnwc. When Helen arrived we got changed and headed out to the public car park to meet up with Mark and Jess who were going to lead the trip.

I (Duncan) had made a faustian pact with Mark that if he were to lead I was to carry his camera box in. Why I was spared the horrors of dragging the large camera box through the crawl I shall never know but I suspect my debt has not yet been paid…

The Daren entrance series is infamous. 517m of narrow, twisting, passageway, a lot of it crawling size, with several squeezes, puddles and s-bends thrown in for good measure. It has a reputation for being both arduous and time consuming. Suggest a trip to Daren and you will see many eyes widen and heads begin to shake sadly. The fact that there is no gate on a system of this size - over 16 miles in length (26,000m) - is an indication that the entrance is considered to be a sufficient natural barrier to prevent non-cavers stumbling in and getting lost.

We had a good trip there and made fairly fast work of the entrance series. As a group of 7 we made it out of these in around an hour. Undoubtedly the entrance was more awkward for the taller members of the group. Being short had its distinct advantages for a change as I (Claire) barely noticed the Vice (a squeeze around 80m into the entrance) and there were plenty of times where I was able to walk when a lot were still crawling along. In my opinion, the entrance series isn’t anything to worry about, it’s just fairly sustained, nothing that should put you off visiting the excellent cave beyond.

I (Duncan) on the other hand have a completely different opinion of the crawl! Whilst not particularly technical and the squeezes were “fun” much of my time was hands a knees crawling or flat out crawls through annoying puddles and I suffered a severe attack of cramps in my right calf muscle. When we finally exited the crawl I felt battered and bruised and we had barely started.

We followed the standard through trip route with Jess leading the way. At one point Mark showed the way on to the deeper parts of the system so we would learn the routes.

During the trip we stopped several times for Mark to take some photos. The full set of photos are on his flickr account.

© Mark Burkey 2015.Claire at the beginning of Far Epocalypse.

Some of the most impressive formations we saw were in Urchin Oxbow. This passage can be easily missed but is well worth the effort as it is a simple diversion that loops back to the main route through.

Mark Burkey preparing for a photo of Mark Hampson in Urchin Oxbow

© Mark Burkey 2015. Mark Hampson viewing the urchins.

The delicate formations in Urchin Oxbow

More delicate formations in Urchin Oxbow

© Mark Burkey 2015. David in Urchin Oxbow

© Mark Burkey 2015. Duncan at the Antlers.

After all the pretties it was a surprisingly long and relentless stomp along Antler passage with the occasional up and down on chain ladders, teetering on metal plates on the side of boulders (being short did not help there). Jess also discovered a straightforward bypass to some traverses along this passage, which was welcomed by Claire.

© Mark Burkey 2015 Helen, Jess and Duncan in Price’s Prophecy.

After one final photograph in Price’s Prophecy it was the grim crawl out of Ogof Cnwc. This squalid muddy exit means by the time you finally get out you are covered head to toe in sloppy liquid mud!

© Mark Burkey 2015. Only Helen appears to be happy, I guess she was glad to be alive!

Total trip time: 7 hours


With non-stop rain and bruised and battered limbs from the Daren through trip options were limited. Duncan had never visited Craig-A-Ffynnon and was keen to at least give it a go. Another club staying at Whitewalls had been the day before and had mentioned the river in the section Gasoline Alley was pretty high and everyone agreed it could have sumped. Not every visit has to lead into some amazing stomp it can often be a simple fact finding mission which for Duncan was where was it, how do you get into it and when Gasoline Alley is bad, how does that look?

So Claire, David and Duncan headed out into the grim weather and off down the valley.

Where was it turned out to be easier than expected. Getting in was surprisingly difficult, especially as the other club had locked it incorrectly. For the record when locking, push the bar that will have the padlock on UP through the hole. This allows the lock to be handled much easier, the alternative being 15 minutes of arm dislocating back flips whilst spinning on one’s head...grrrrr

Now I’ve heard great things about Craig-A-Ffynnon, very pretty I’m told, Hall of the Mountain King is impressive, some sporting sections and it did indeed live up to the claims. However no one has ever mentioned the mud...Seriously how much can there be? Apparently more than enough! There was even one small, very innocuous, looking section where both we and it were so muddy that we kept slipping back down and had to form a human chain to get up.

Despite the mud and the threat that Gasoline Alley could sump we made our way to the Hall of the Mountain King and blimey it’s impressive! Well worth the effort. David showed us the way on then we turned around and head back out. Thankfully the river had not risen and getting out was fine. Route finding was easy, the second choke was easy to navigate and a great Sunday trip. I can’t wait to go back when the weather is a bit more stable!

Total trip time: 2.5 hours

Monday, 16 November 2015

Ogof Marros - a new cave discovery

Team: Phil Knight, Andy Freem, Antonia Freem, Michael Perryman, Ash Pursglove, Claire Vivian, Duncan Hornby, Emily Ivans, Storm Morris Fred Cook and David Kelvey.

A team of SWCC members and friends have been digging near Pendine in West Wales over the last year and have now gained access into what is likely to be a major cave system in West Wales, to be known as Ogof Marros.

Local caver Phil Knight and friends had spotted a potential entrance and had begun exploring once permission had been gained from the farmer whose land the entrance was on. Over several months the team was expanded with much of the initial digging done by those who lived locally.

By the end of May 2015, progress was blocked by a flat out bedding crawl, that would later be known as Fred’s Despair, due to Fred’s inability to fit through, unless as he said “his children were on the other side and in trouble”. On 6/6/2015 Antonia and Claire passed through Fred’s Despair, with helmets off as they would not fit through. The squeeze ended in a tight ninety degree bend which those of a taller persuasion would have found impossible to pass. Having got through, and being the only members of the team who could fit through the crawl, Antonia and Claire explored the chamber and passage beyond.

Antonia exploring the new passage, viewed from Fred’s Despair. The way on is to the left and then a crawl through boulders to reach Antonia’s Grotto, the limit of exploration that day.

Claire popping out through the flat out crawl, Fred’s Despair. The pagoda style rocks on the right, which forced a 90 degree bend, have now been removed. 

A well decorated area was reached, this was named Antonia’s Grotto. We also had a discovery of a grotto around the corner by Ash and this is now known as Ash’s Grotto.

Unusual bent formation which had a rude name to start with, but is now known as the Lama. 

The diggers’ campsite.

Following a draft down through boulders near the grotto, Claire was the first to push the section now know as Claire’s Clamber which ultimately lead towards the descent into the first choke. This was a climb down through boulders of around 2.5m reaching a small chamber on the right (now full of boulders dug out from the choke). The removal of a boulder, with the lifting assistance of Andy, Ash and Antonia enabled a second smaller chamber to be discovered and a drafting way on looking likely against a solid wall.

Surface de-brief and survey sketching. 

Antonia Freem climbing out of Claire’s Clamber.

Many months were spent following a draught through a progressively dangerous choke with one false lead, pit one, that nearly squashed Ash and then tried to turn Phil in to a smear. This led to digging at the end of the rift after lots of rock “tetris”. Essential scaffolding was purchased and put into place in the newly named Sciatica Shaft (following back problems experienced by several members of the team). Three Man Chamber, at the base of Sciatica Shaft, has now become a storage area for recalcitrant boulders after pit one became filled. It is also a convenient place to store digging kit waiting to be put into good use.

Several attempts were made to push towards the water which could clearly be heard. Some potential ways on were abandoned as they were simply too dangerous to follow, including the Chamber of Terrors.

It became a regular event that the team would dig like crazy, retreat with shattered nerves and Andy passing judgement of the next best course of action.

Emily Ivans cutting scaffolding to size ready for protecting the dig.

By July 2015 the team had gained access to a stream within the boulders and had seen an obvious way on with a tantalising view of stalagmites. With a bit of work the way forward became just passable in the stream. Whilst under the protection of boulders in the constriction, Andy tested a rock up in the ceiling and several boulders dislodged. The following month was spent removing this pile of boulders which were blocking the view beyond.

A team returned to the cave on 21/10/15 to try to move one final boulder. The boulder had spent many weeks working its way from the roof, swinging and teetering before falling and blocking the way on. In a very confined space Antonia managed to drill a hole into the boulder, place a bolt and tie a rope into it. Andy and Duncan pulled whilst Phil rocked the boulder with a crowbar. It was finally manoeuvred and bought within safe working distance, thus securing the name of ‘Back to the Future’ for the newly ventured part of the choke. Upon exiting the cave for the day Phil mentioned it was his birthday! He would have to wait 2 days before he could open his present!

On 23/10/15 the team returned with Claire and proceeded to take it in turns to drill then plug ‘n’ feather the boulder. This was frustrating and a very intense experience as one would be laying flat out in a stream, no room to manoeuvre, under some probably less than secure protection!

By lunch time the boulder was destroyed with much of the credit going to Phil!

Exiting the choke requires a flat out crawl in the stream in a very restricted area.

Antonia and Claire, were first through, whilst Andy, Phil and Duncan remained on the outside of the choke. Who said chivalry was dead, ladies first!

Antonia and Claire had taken a walkie talkie through and were describing the scene, we sat in the choke gobbed smacked listening to their description. They were joined by Phil and off they went down the newly named Wildest Dreams passage. About 30 minutes later they returned and the ladies came back and Andy and Duncan joined Phil.

We pushed to the limits of where Antonia and Claire had reached and had left a going lead as they had felt they had their share of first discoveries and we entered a large stream passage.

Phil Knight and Andy Freem in large stream passage.

We headed back to the choke and Phil and Andy were replaced by Antonia and Claire. We went back to the large stream passage and headed up stream, it was clear that it was heading nearer the surface and we completed the first round trip in the cave.

Antonia Freem and Claire Vivian at the upstream limits of our initial exploration.

Some of the best formations were just downstream of the choke, one a twiglet like formation defying gravity.

Andy Freem admiring “twiglet” formation downstream of boulder choke.

Our remaining time in the cave was spent standing on a boulder strewn floor, looking down a 3m climb, trying to ascertain the best route to the ground below, where the stream was visible, flowing off down a passage into the distance. A visit by Phil and Ash the next day showed that this passage was blocked some 20m further on by another choke.

We all came out feeling “shell shocked” having just discovered 300-400m of passageway in a totally new cave system. After much group hugging and jumping up and down the adrenaline started to wear off, we went back to the car got changed and had a celebratory fish ‘n’ chips. I don’t think any of us slept well that night!

Since then we have gone on and explored beyond the climb on the way to the second choke. A new round trip has been found, along with another pretty grotto. More has also been discovered upstream. Antonia, Phil and Claire pushed the area near the original limit of upstream exploration and found a further c.25m of generally crawling sized passage amongst boulders beyond “Tickled Trout” Inlet. A small upper level passage, near this area was also pushed by Antonia and Claire, past a tricky 90 degree bend, until it was found to end at a small inlet cascade. A very pretty crystal pool was also discovered in the floor of a small chamber (Crystal Carpet Chamber) near the ‘unshattered pillar’. Phil and Ash were the first to spot and name ‘Jimmy’ the trout in the streamway. Since then, 2 more trout have been sighted in different locations.

Jimmy the trout in the streamway. 

It is hoped a more detailed article is to be published in Descent. The cave is locked, please use the email below if members are interested in seeing the cave and supporting the discovery.

Email: ogofmarros@email.com

Now you have read the blog watch the movie of its discovery!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

SWCC Provisionals’ Weekend November 2015 - Piers crawls his way into his 40's...

It was a grey and drizzly weekend at Penwyllt, but still some 17 provisional members made the trek to SWCC to take part in this weekend's caving exploits. All these were either brand new to caving, or experienced cavers new to the club itself. Some of these members went to extraordinary lengths to come to SWCC for the weekend and these efforts certainly deserve to be recognised here. We had Brendan Hoare who flew over from Dublin to join us, Chris Taylor who made an heroic cycle ride - carrying all his kit - from Neath Railway Station to Penwyllt in driving rain and fog and Heledd Griffiths who found herself having to take a coach back to London at 3.30am Monday morning in order to arrive at work there in time for an 8.30am start. That’s without mentioning Stewart and Taine Avey who also came and caved with us for 5 hours, despite knowing that they would have no sleep that night as they were photographing a night rally!

As well as the excellent turnout from provisional members, a whole load of fireworks went up in smoke and Piers turned 40! This was all lubricated by 3 barrels of beer supplied by what I can only assume is the mysterious beer barrel fairy…

Honestly where does the beer come from? The beer was complemented by tasty curry cooked up by Team “Annie”.

Although there were multiple provisional trips over the weekend the following are descriptions provided by Claire and Duncan.


Saturday morning Provisionals and trip leaders met in the long common room and all were introduced to each other then assigned to their respective groups based upon experience, ranging from total beginners to hardened expedition cavers.

Duncan lead a trip into Cwm Dwr, a special trip as it was Piers’ 40th birthday trip and a trip he had not done for some time. Jon and Paul, provisionals but capable cavers completed the team. Originally it was going to be a through trip but the bad weather made that impossible. We visited the Confluence, the river was up by a metre and tanking through. The approach to the confluence was a bit eerie as the sound reverberating in the passage sounded like any second a flood pulse was going to come hurtling around the corner and take us all out...

The confluence, definitely not the day to do a through trip!

Piers, Jon and Paul just upstream of the confluence

We back tracked up to the Smithy and entered Piccadilly then down to the other end of flood by-pass. We were amazed at how much foam there was and the height it had reached.

Piers at flood by-pass with foam up to 3m high on the walls.

We did a quick visit to Heol Eira and headed back out of Cwm Dwr for another knee grinding exit.

Piers now deciding he wished he had never gone on the trip!

James Hallihan decided he would like a chance to lead a group of beginner cavers in OFD2 so that he could both practice his route finding in the cave and perfect his group management skills. At only 11 years old, but already having an impressive 8 years’ worth of caving experience under his belt, James would be our youngest caver, let alone cave leader. Two more experienced cavers came along on the trip to ensure that no problems would arise, but they kept their interfering to a minimum so that James would have the full experience. He did admirably well, which was no surprise to anyone on his trip. The new cavers on the trip were Stewart and his son,Taine (12 years old) and Kate. Phil and Claire came along to make up the numbers.

James and Taine

James showing the new cavers that squeezes are not to be feared.

The trip went well throughout. Taine, a budding photographer, saw plenty of places he would like to come back and photograph one day and had a great sense of adventure trying every aspect of caving involved in the day, even the traversing, which he had been fearing. We will return one day to have a go at the crawls, so that he has a fuller sense of what can be involved in caving.

The group near the Wedding Cake

Taine in Swamp Creek 

Stewart enjoyed trying to learn the route and seeing Taine have fun. Kate conquered some fears along the way and showed a vast improvement in the way she moved through the cave, gaining in confidence as the trip went on. We also met Jo White and her group using her OFD huff to navigate in the Entrance Series. You can get yours from the Publications cupboard, priced at £9 each and also available in Cwm Dwr design as well.

Jo using her OFD huff to navigate

The new cavers even opted to extend their trip by a short while through tagging on a visit to the Mini Columns at the end. A total time of 5 hours was spent underground.

James wearing the burden of leadership and the group returning to the surface
Other trips that day were completed by Adrian and Kate, who took Andrew and Chris around OFD1; Iain took Colin, Brendan, Heledd and Rhys on a round trip in Top Entrance and Tim took Chloe, Will and Phill on a tour around OFD2.

Saturday evening went with a bang! Loads of fireworks were let off, beer was drunk and curry scoffed! Piers got an excellent Birthday cake and long room packed out as everyone sung happy birthday with the Cwm Dwr crawl a distance memory!

Excellent firework show and no one lost a limb...

As always the party went on late and much drinking done!

Mr Alderman “photo bombing”without spilling his pint!


Duncan enjoyed the Cwm Dwr crawl so much that he went and did it again on Sunday. This time with provisionals Steve and Phill. Just as we were about to leave Phil Knight joined the trip. This trip was successful for two reasons; Steve learnt more of the route through Cwm Dwr and I managed with the help of the team, and advice from Mark Burkey, to visit a part of the system new to me called Tapioca which had stunning white formations.

Catrin, Vaughan and Claire took Rhys and Heledd in to OFD1 for a trip on the Escape Route, being as the river was still on the sporting side. This went well with Vaughan and Cat consolidating their knowledge of OFD1 and Rhys and Heledd enjoying the different challenges of the trip, including using cowstails for the first time.

Antonia took Colin, Brendan, Chloe and Will in to OFD1 for their first visit. Having managed to stagger the groups fairly well, both OFD1 teams only actually got to be within chatting distance on one occasion.

Damian took Andrew on a trip around Top Entrance and Chris joined Jo and her team of cavers on a trip to Speedy Caver and the Bedding Chambers.

Top Left: the team looking at foam near Pluto’s Bath.
Top Right: Heledd and Vaughan in Bolt Passage
Bottom Left: Roundabout Chamber.

Many thanks to all who led trips on the weekend:

Adrian Brown, Kate Brown, Catrin Budd, Vaughan Budd, Antonia Freem, Piers Hallihan, James Hallihan, Duncan Hornby, Phil Hughes, Phil Knight, Tim Lewingdon, Iain Miller, Damian Thomas, Claire Vivian, Jo White.

New provisional members to watch out for:

Stewart Avey, Taine Avey, Andrew Baldwin, Paul Edwards, Kate Furness, Heledd Griffiths, Rhys Griffiths, Steve Hepple, Brendan Hoare, Colin Hoare, Chris Jones, Chloe Partridge, Will O’Connor, Jon Tatton, Chris Taylor, Phill Thomas, Andrew Williams.