Wales 12th and 13th October 2002
In a rather uncharacteristic moment of efficiency, we actually managed to pack all the kit and get everyone loaded in the minibus ready to leave before 8. All the equipment strapped to the roof (It ain't gonna rain) and all the new members rounded up after getting lost looking for food in the union and we still managed to leave before 8? That'll be the day! At least that meant we arrived at the Croydon Caving Club (Ystradfellte, Brecon Beacons, left) at an acceptable hour. We needed to be up early the next day as the custodians of Ogof Ffddun Dyu (OFD, the deepest cave in Britain) in a ICU-like display of bureaucracy refuse to issue access keys after 11am.
By the morning the Welsh rain had gone and it was turning sunny. We decided over the morning fry-up to run 2 touristy-style trips into the top entrance of OFD, and another to Pant Mawr for those who had completed ladder training. Due to the lack of rain the walk to Pant Mawr was pleasant but the trip was soured by Jan unfortunately dropping his hideously expensive camera 20m down the entrance shaft. Well you live and you learn.
The two trips into OFD were less technical, but with over 50 km of passageway to explore, route finding even in the areas close to the entrance can be a process of trial and error. A couple of hours were spent looking at the formations known as the 'Wedding Cake', 'Judge' and 'Trident', and also exploring the poorly named 'Big Chamber Near the Entrance'. Andy bumped into an old acquaintance on the way out who invited ICCC over to the '18th Hole' WSG dig, although the drills and explosives sounded fun, we had some serious caving to do on Sunday.
It was another miracle which saw us at the infamous South Wales Caving Club (SWCC) HQ to sign ourselves in for another trip into OFD. The hut has changing rooms and lovely warm showers, which was welcome as the weather had taken a turn for the worse. The trips were all going to be in OFD, 5 minutes from the hut. No-one wanted to go on the 40 minute walk in the rain to Pant Mawr. Visibility decreased, the rain got heavier, and the wind picked up. We were glad to get underground where it was actually warmer and drier! Even those of us who ended up in the main streamway wading in waist deep water were glad to be out of the freezing wind. The efforts of those who managed to climb down a taxing rift, and down a waterfall using an iron ladder had their efforts rewarded by experiencing one of the finest streamways in Britain. A trip upstream led to the Top Waterfall, a visually impressive wall of water, and the limit of exploration in that direction.
Clewin's team ventured into Cwm Dwr, the middle entrance of OFD, just a couple of hundred metres from the SWCC hut, perfect! After experiencing the 'Grade 2 Confined Space' (where was that sign stolen from?) the time-honoured ICCC tradition of getting lost in the Cwm Dwr Boulder Choke was accomplished. Meanwhile the remaining party entered OFD top with the specific aim of completing the Selenite-Edward's Shortcut roundtrip. Did they complete it? Err, no.
The drive home was really unpleasant. A pant-filling moment in the high winds on the way over the Severn Bridge was the low-light, while Shed discovering the eat-as-many-strawberries as you-can at one of the service station on the way home was the highlight (for all concerned).