Friday, 26 August 2016

Upper Flood Swallet

This is a report for an Upper Flood Swallet trip on 6.8.16 written by SWCC provisional member, Chris Taylor. The full team were: Celestine Crabbe, Kevin Speight (MCG), Chris Taylor and Phill Thomas. All caving photos are by Phill.

Chris Taylor

After a few trips in the Streamway and Top Entrance at OFD, I was starting to feel a change of scene might be nice, maybe more of a challenge. In hindsight the phrase 'be careful what you wish for', comes to mind when I received a kind invite to visit Upper Flood Swallet a few weeks back.  I recall packing my gear the night before with the same excitement a small child might feel if leaving a mince pie out for Santa on Christmas Eve. On the morning of the trip I bounded excitedly downstairs at 6:00am to a cool and dewy August morning.

Fast forward to about 8:30am and after some rendezvous miscommunication, I'd met up with Phill and Celestine, and we were well on our way along the M4.  Phill's SatNav impressively guided us through the West Country until we arrived at MCG where our guide, Kevin, was waiting.  Shortly after arriving, we're changed, and walking down the dirt track and towards the modest little hatch covering the entrance to Upper Flood - at this point I've noticed that everyone else has double kneepads, elbow pads and gloves - I was starting to feel my single pair of kneepads might be a bit inadequate. Kevin had unlocked the padlock and down we went one by one, then scurrying downwards and onwards through Upper Flood Passage, with plenty of hands and knees crawling across rubble. After a final fairly narrow crawl we emerged into Midnight Chamber which contained a fine array of flows, stal and long straws. Kevin was fairly eager to press on, and much of the inward trip would consist of me gawping at what I considered were breathtaking formations, while Kev would assure me that the best was yet to come and it would be all worth the effort to see Neverland.  I held that thought in mind, particularly while wriggling through a long flat, and wet section aptly named The Lavatory - a 50 metre wet crawl. 

Then began 'the' boulder choke. Even in my limited caving experience I have heard of this choke.  A few really uncomfortable twists and turns later - that I knew it be bloody well feeling bad the following morning - and we arrived in a small chamber, where I remarked "well, that wasn't so bad, just a bit awkward". With a smile our leader informed me we had got the first bit out of the way, and there was plenty to go, but afterall, it was going to be well worth it.  I can recall around 11 particular sections to the choke that were not individually difficult, but strung together, they do eventually become an endurance test.

Eventually Kevin announced we had arrived at the old entrance to Neverland. Apparently it was taped off to protect the formations, and a bypass was dug.  Anticipation was now running high among the group.  Eventually after one final push through a gloriously muddy crawl - I let gravity do the work at that point - we arrived at a small chamber containing  a shallow pool.  Next to the pool were a small bucket and a brush, and it was here that we were advised to remove our oversuits and wellies to avoid spoiling the formations.  It felt criminal walking through a crystal pool and hearing the faint 'crunches' under our feet as we took extra care to walk on already damaged parts of the floor, but there was no other way on.  As we turned right and walked up the flows into a large chamber, pure white flows, curtains and stal surrounded us.  Everywhere I looked, the walls and floor glistened yellow-white.  I've struggled to write this piece, as a written description does not do Neverland justice and neither do photographs really, the passage has to be seen to be experienced.  Further up the top of the flow, a low passage contains a pool and the Pork Pies - large blobs of pure white calcite shaped just as their name implies.

Chris in Neverland
Celestine in Neverland
After we had wandered around all that was not taped off, Kevin managed to persuade us to make the return trip back by reminding us of the Hawaiian night barbecue that was in preparation above us. The return trip was a very tiring one, and I think we all found the 'upward' journey through the boulder choke a very different beast. Eventually I got my second wind after receiving a facefull of muddy water reminding me that I was part way through The Lavatory. Blindly stumbling along the entrance passage and up the hatch, I fell on to the grass, and lay in the sunshine while I recovered. Upper Flood is a strenuous cave with plenty of challenges, sharp edges and pebbles that take their toll. It really is another level up from the well travelled passage of OFD and has the feel of virgin cave.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

2016 Tresviso Expedition

Three SWCC members (Gareth Davies, Martin Grove and Duncan Hornby) joined the Tresviso 2016 expedition run by the Bradford Pothole Club member Phil Walker (an ex SWCC). In total 21 people joined the expedition, a record turn out. Over the years Phil has collected old reports, maps and data for the Tresviso and Andara region. This extensive database can be found on the Tresviso Caves Website. Survex data has been uploaded to the BCA cave registry data archive.

This year the expedition kept a blog with expedition members writing up their experiences. If you fancy finding out more details of what was discovered\explored then please visit the blog here.

Below are the KML outlines of the Agua and Marniosa systems shown in Google Earth. It is believed the sump at the downstream end of Marniosa connects with Agua.

The two known major systems in the area, Agua on the left and Marniosa on the right. This birds eye view of the area belies the effort required to simply get to the Agua entrance!


There were many trips into Agua, often pushing the extreme limits, but all trips start with crossing the resurgence pool at the entrance.

Derek Cousin crossing the lake at the entrance of Agua. Photo by Russell Brooks.
The main route into the furthest parts of Agua requires everyone to climb the 75m Ramp. A key object for one team was to replace this ageing and very muddy rope with newer rope donated by BPC.

Russell Brooks at the top of the 75m ramp in Agua.
In search of caves

This year included a lot of work in the high mountains, re-establish old entrances from past and often erroneous coordinates.

The higher mountains are an unforgiving treeless environment with no escape from the sun other than the bitter cold caves and mines located here.

The long hot walk to the high mountains.
Looking back into the valley, this was the area where Pozo Del Castillo was relocated and explored.
Several trips in the Sierra del a Corta were undertaken to locate possible entrances that could provide a shortcut into the back end of the known Agua system.

Spectacular views from the Sierra del a Corta region.

Marniosa was re-rigged with the expectation of diving the sump and during these rigging trips many photos were taken to show off the many magnificent formations.

A chamber stuffed full of stals which one must pass through to get to the river.
Duncan in Morning chamber in Marniosa. Photo by Russell Brooks.
Nic Brooks in Marniosa. Photo by Russell Brooks.

Staying in Tresviso itself we took over the whole of the bunk house. The locals did not seem to be too concerned with us airing our dirty laundry!

21 people's worth of caving stuff made for a curious tourist attraction!
A typical night in the bar involves plenty of beer and gin!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

May - July events

Where to begin! It's been a very busy few weeks, what with film crews, evening trips and club meets. The late May Bank Holiday weekend saw Celestine, Steve, Michael, Damien and Phill head off for an over-the tide-trip in to Otter Hole. For most of the trip participants this was a first visit to Otter and they were both amazed by the formations and repulsed by the mud!

A good, clean, trip for Damien.
The team having a well earned pint.

June saw Alison Maddocks test out her bionic new hip with a reintroduction to OFD2. She proved that she is definitely a super caver! Only around 15 minutes to get to Salubrious via a circuitous route and then a fast paced move over to Poached Egg Climb and back via the mini Columns. Amazing!

Alison and Claire at the Mini-Columns
Alison near Timo's Table
Watching a lovely sunset over Fan Hir
Evening trips also took place regularly this month including visits to Dan yr Ogof 1937 Series as well as a full round trip (followed by full-blown midge attack), and more general route finding trips in to OFD.  Contact Claire: to get involved with these.

Two film crews also arrived to film in OFD. The first was a BBC crew filming an OFD2-OFD1 through-trip with the former rugby player, now turned adventurer, Richard Parks. The filming for this took place over two days at the end of June. The first day saw the team travel almost as far as the Corkscrew, filming and interviewing  along the way (8 hours). The second day was the through-trip, which took around 14 hours. All members of the team were fit, but some had limited experience underground,. Nevertheless, they seemed to enjoy the experience and were frequently laughing and joking along the way. There were several SWCC members who assisted the crew including Gary Evans, Vince Allkins, Matt Woodfield and Claire Vivian. The series will begin on BBC1 on 12th September, but not sure when the caving episode will be shown. All photos by Matt Woodfield.

Filming in Salubrious.

The light camera used to film the through-trip.

The producer keeping his feet dry, but having a great time - look at that smile!
Richard Parks and Gary

Filming at Marble Showers

Discussing the filming plan at Flood Bypass
Vince on the Diver's Pitch
Gary disappears through the Letterbox
Richard Parks emerging from the Letterbox.
The second film crew was ITV this time. They were ably looked after by Helen Hooper, Andy Jones, Phil Knight, Phill Thomas and Chris Taylor. I don't have any photos from this one, but all involved enjoyed the experience (including Chris with his first underground abseil). The results will be shown on a TV screen near you shortly.

July saw more evening route-finding trips in OFD and a first caving trip for Ceri.

Claire and Jen near the upper Columns gate.

Jen traversing the top of Arete

Dan, Claire and Ceri in Gnome Passage.
Admiring a formation in Gnome Passage

We also had a club meet in North Wales organised by Jo. Staying in a bunkhouse in Betws-y-Coed 5 of us had a great time walking, mountain biking or trying out the underground trampolines (we were shattered after barely 15 minutes on these).
Claire, Chloe, Michelle and Jo dry at the start of the walk
Sheltering in the woods

The group walking near Swallow Falls

The Ugly House. Perfect spot for tea and cake on a wet day

More evening exploring also took place. This time a walk down Bishopston Valley to look at Guzzle Hole and other speleological sites.

Alison and Paul in the dry riverbed.

Paul and Claire at Guzzle Hole.