Thursday, 16 June 2016

Mud and Midges

Team: Adrian Brown, Duncan Hornby and Claire Vivian
Trip date: 12th June 2016

On Sunday Claire and I met up with Adrian to visit two caves in the western part of the Black Mountains: Pal-y-Cwrt (there is a detailed article about this cave in Descent Issue 250) and Heaven’s Door which I am going to call Death Trap cave!

Adrian picked us up at Penwyllt HQ then we headed over to the area and the local farmer kindly allowed us to park up in his farmyard. After a bit of banter, we got changed and headed over to “Death Trap” cave.

Heaven’s Door

This is a very short cave that none of us had visited before and is found in a deep sink hole. The entrance is a grim backwards crawl down a muddy tube full of mosquitoes. Highly advisable to put in a 15m handline. Adrian and Claire had entered first then it was my turn. After a few metres crawling backwards I sensed that I could kneel up but felt no floor. Turning around I had one of those OMG-WTF am I doing moments as I found I was reversing out over a pitch! There is a scaffold bar in the roof with a rope in situ to provide a handline down this pitch. I eventually joined the others who had moved on to what turned out to be the bitter end of the cave which was a sump.

I took a couple of photos as I wanted to experiment with a firefly slave unit that had been lent to me. We then exited the cave, first Adrian then Claire.

Adrian and Claire at the sump in Heaven’s door.

As I was climbing up I got to a restricted part and stood on a boulder so I could shift into a better position, the boulder moved ever so slightly. No big deal boulders move all the time. With my left foot on solid wall me shuffling around in attempt to pass the awkward climb up I stood on the boulder again, a second later my right foot was in air and the very pitch face I was climbing up crumbled away with the boulder landing below with an almighty thud! If anyone had been below they would have surely been seriously hurt or worse.

I found myself anchored with my left foot on solid wall swing desperately on the hand line. Somewhat concerned for my immediate continuing existence my thoughts turned to my caving comrades, at least one of them will come and investigate as how could anyone not hear that almighty thud? None came and eventually I established a new foothold and was able to climb up and out.

Reaching the surface I found the others happily talking completely unaware of my “adventure”. Interestingly they would not have been more than 15m away from me.

With Heaven's door a new cave to me tucked under my belt, never to be visited again, we headed off to Pal-y-Cwrt.

Trip time: < 1 hour


Adrian has promised one thing, mud and lots of it, he did not disappoint!

The entrance to this cave is on the hill overlooking the farm. Whilst trying to capture a before and after cave photo we were constantly under attack from midges. Carl Rickard popped out of nowhere to wish us luck on our trip, unfortunately he was unable to join us due to a bad knee. With the midges winning the war we said our goodbyes and quickly entered the cave.

At the entrance of Pal-y-Cwrt, caked in Heaven’s door black mud.

The entrance has a Mendip like quality; muddy with a steeply descending passage. You enter an impressively large chamber with several possible routes. Adrian (one of the current digging team) showed us their latest find. This required crawling in gloopy red mud and a flat out crawl through a squalid duck. It took next to no time to be covered head to toe in mud!

We also visited the choke that Tony Donovan was half buried alive in (See Descent 250) and unsurprisingly did not hang around too long!
Eventually we left the cave, got changed and washed our kit in a nearby stream. Adrian got out his now famous kelly kettle and whipped up a brew. It was a great, if not somewhat muddy, bit of Sunday caving, thanks Adrian!
Caked in red mud!
Trip Time: < 2 hours


  1. Really enjoyed your company. Really good trip with you the blog and especially the photo of us in black mud from heavens door and then the red mud of pal y cwrt lol 😁

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  3. Note to self: make sure Duncan is last up climbs as he has a tendency to break caves. ;-) Scary to know that despite being only a few feet away, the sound did not carry. Near-death experience excepted, it was a good trip and it was great to see newly discovered cave. Excellent work Pal-y-Cwrt diggers and thanks for the tour Adrian.

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