Alex Betts, Alex Seaton, Arun Paul, Ben Richards, Dave Kirkpatrick, Felicia Burtscher, Jack Hare, James Perry, Jarvist Frost, Jean-Yves Burlet, Jennifer R, Joshua Newington, Mark Gee, May Law, Nathaniel Oshunniyi, Peter Ganson, Rayson Ng, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers, Tanguy Racine
I thought the trip was quite sensational. Lots of food, lots of booze, and lots of intense caving! At first I was quite seriously scared of the drops and stuff in the cave, but after a while I felt like I was Bear Grylls doing the real-life version of minecraft.
This weekend in wales was my first experience caving, needless to say it won’t be my last. I have dipped my toes into an exciting, high risk world and I want more. The imperial caving society committee are a bunch of lovely guys and girls with decades of experience between them. They made our trip as fun as it was, and I can honestly say I got out of it everything I wanted. We arrived late on Friday night and bonded over a latenight cooking sesh and soon crashed in our beds. The next day was dedicated to 7 hours of intense caving. We broke off into groups of 4 and did things we never imagined: traversing over steep drops, climbing through impossibly tiny squeezes, and scaling up wet rock walls. That evening was a night of comradery and caving games, including the infamous ‘squeeze machine’ that does exactly what it says on the tin. Sunday was a shorter but sweeter caving trip, only 4 hours and then sadly we made our way home. This trip was just enough to get me hooked into diving head first underground and I look forward to deeper and darker trips ahead. 10/10 would recommend to everyone and their mother.
A weekend well-spent in Wales with loads of fun and near-death experience (JK)! It’s my first time doing caving and to be very honest I never expect it to be so intensed as wedging ourselves through narrow gullies by stabilising my back on one side of the slippery wall and feet on the other at great height. It was indeed another thrilling experience to be able to climb down a ladder while the waterfall was spalshing on our faces. Getting lost in caves can be frustrating but what’s more important is to trust you leaders (!!), keep calm and carry on! Overall it was one of the most amazing experience ever in my life!
Tripadvisor Review : An amazing caving trip in Wales ! (five stars) I spent an amazing weekend with the ICCC in mid-October. The location is stunning, the choice of activities and sports is huge (crawl, swim, climb, hike), the cave is great (but a bit moist), food is very delicious and the last (but definitely not the least) the team of cavers was absolutely fantastic. Huge thanks to the caving leaders for the advices and guiding, to the cooks for the great meals, to the squeeze machine for the caving game and to all the rest of the fantastic team of cavers who made this stay truly memorable.
For a first-timer, I totally haven’t expected something so challenging yet so exciting! Walking towards the entrance of the cave trying to anticipate what it going to happen is so adrenaline-pumping! Climbing over big boulders, inching forward carefully on a one-feet wide cliff when falling into the massive pit isn’t an option, squeezing through narrow walkways between rock walls, walking with feet soaked in water; every obstacle seemed to challenge myself to go further and overcome them. My favourite part in the cave was when we switched off our headlamps. The total darkness brought calmness and it is a new experience for me, being in an absolute pitch-black environment. Stalactites, stalagmites, waterfalls and crystals that we encountered along the way also amazed me how beautiful nature is. Besides that, I enjoyed listening to caving songs on the minibus on the way to Wales. The seniors did a great job in leading us in the cave and out unharmed. Talking to experienced cavers also opened my eyes to different perspectives of the activity. It is definitely a tiring but thrilling experience!
Looking back through these trip reports today, on Friday Oct 27th 2023, a few hours before leaving for Wales II and my first return to OFD since that fateful weekend in 2017, 2,205 days ago, I think now is a great time to finally write that trip report and upload the photos I took from that trip, to cross them off my to do list once and for all. You never want to come off as that one fresher that's too keen, right? Okay, iPhone 4s photos have now been uploaded.
Having just exited the foggy haze of fresher's boat parties, pub crawls featuring the Imperial fire engine, ICSO auditions and most importantly a horrifying West Way climbing experience with ICMC where I remember everyone being incredibly competitive the Wednesday before, which left me without skin on almost all of my knuckles (as featured in one of Rhys' photos), I was ready for my first taste of the ICCC life.
It's funny how many memories flood back when reading these reports, and how I wish I'd written something at the time (if you're reading this, go write a report for that trip you've been meaning to right now!! Go!!). Some things stick with me very vividly. For example, when all of us freshers were getting changed on the Saturday evening after returning to the hut, Nathaniel was shocked to see the rest of us wearing underwear under our furries. In horror, we realised he'd gone fully commando the entire day, and that others would unknowingly wear that same furry for years to come. The Saturday trip before that I clearly remember bumping into the Perry and Arun team, both quite lost. I found this whole experience quite baffling, as my only previous experience of caving was on a summer intro to caving course with the Army cadets, where the leaders were obscenely overqualified and mind-blowingly safety conscious. And yet here I was being led over drops of certainly fatal dimensions by university students only a year or two older than myself. I was hooked.
The caving games that evening were really quite something. I looked on in horror as older members of the club (mainly Arun and Rhys judging by the photos) performed a whole host of bizarre manoeuvres, ranging from traversing each other to passing incredibly small slings over themselves, to inserting themselves into various benches around the room. The Sunday trip may have been what got me hooked on caving for good - an epic trip from back when I had boundless fresher enthusiasm. Together with the three most insane and limbular cavers (Jarv, Rhys and Tanguy) I for some reason signed up on a trip to carry heavy objects for Tony Seddon to dive with (although I can't remember whether I actually carried anything, I doubt that I did). This then became a through trip along the streamway that just the day before had been at such high levels that a team turned back while attempting exactly the same trip. I clearly remember having the time of my life, running to keep up with Tanguy's ridiculous pace and jumping into icy pools despite at the time being really quite afraid of swimming. At one point I remember Tanguy (or was it Jarv?) performing some ridiculous feat of long-limbed down climbing in front of me, of which the thought of attempting both perplexed and terrified me. A friendly helping hand later and I was at the bottom of the climb, having conquered yet another previously unthinkable section of cave. I remember leaving the cave buzzing and wanting to go round again since the trip had only taken a few hours. The cave fungus had got me good.
Okay, time to catch my train to the Davey car. Let's hope these freshers are more punctual at writing trip reports than I was.
Ben Richards, 2023
After bundling all the kit into the minibus we were almost ready to go. Luckily josh and nathaniel sneaking off to eat at the union wasn't our limiting factor, since we were waiting for “Tanguy’s Mum” to give the caving club a “surprise”. The drive went well except for google ruining the darude experience for the freshers and forcing us over the small severn bridge (The M48 bridge is called the Severn Crossing, the M4 bridge is called the Second Severn Crossing). To get revenge on the roadworks induced traffic on the Second Severn Bridge we "accidentaly" went through the cars only toll booth which saved us £6.70.
The good trips always begin by repeatedly stalling the minibus in Central London. The best trips have this I-don’t-know-whether-the-engine-will-make-it feeling. Luckily for us, this was true on this first novice trip of the year. As we invaded the SWCC cottage kitchen, eyes gleaming with the promise of plentiful food and nectar, we split in efficient cutting, cleaning, cooking teams to yield piping hot pasta bakes. In the meantime, NUCC, Nottingham cavers joined us at the hut… ‘Who told my freshers we were the enemy?’, Lydia stormed in the kitchen. ‘Don’t know, but we’re Imperial after all! How are you?’. We’d parted after the Hidden Earth weekend over a fortnight ago, where the cream of cave scientists and explorers from the UK assembled to discuss their findings. The cottage was packed: near forty cavers, not all of them students, and more to come on Saturday to cave in Ogof Ffynnon Ddu. Cavers from Cambridge, Cardiff… not that I knew until we met underground.
The minibus was packed with kit and eager freshers and Tanguy did a marvellous job of stalling whenever possible. We started off with a nice ice breaker, the classic "Name and interesting fact" which I think Rhys and I won (is it a competition?) with the lightning story, followed by Josh with his strange ability to speak backwards. The journey went quickly - I forget how much closer Wales is than Yorkshire. We stopped for the mandatory food shop and I picked up the all-imporant hummus and mini banana Soreen, as well as a 12 pack of Brew dog which was actually nowhere near as excessive as I thought. After almost driving off the edge of a potential cliff, we rocked up to the SWCC and started on the beer. Pasta was also made and eaten before sleep.
OFDII: Arun Paul, Dave Kirkpatrick, Felicia Burtscher, James Perry, May Law, Rayson Ng, Joshua Newington, Nathaniel Oshunniyi, Rhys Tyers, Tanguy Racine, Ben Richards, Jarvist Frost, Jean-Yves Burlet, Mark Gee, Peter Ganson, Rebecca Diss
Cwm Dwr: Alex Betts, Alex Seaton, Jack Hare, Jennifer R
Wow, being president is a thing now. I overall managed to get some groups sorted and headed off down OFD II with a quality group. Me and Arun were “leading” and definitely not getting lost. I would give some lovely information about where we went but it took far too long to get to gnome passage and I have no idea where we were half the time. DKP almost certainly knew where we were the entire time and wouldn't tell us the way until we decided to turn around. He would then “Just go and have a look over there” and magically “find something that looks like the way”. After getting lost numerous times on the way out, I eventually convinced the novices to follow me down Maypole to have a look at the fast flowing streamway. I hoped this would add some sense of adventure and a reward for putting up with me. May, Ray and Felicia were unphased (so far) enough to follow me down the waterfall drenched ladder at Maypole and we scrambled down a few more climbs until we could see the torrential streamway. We weren’t planning on drowning anytime soon, and had only come down to be cold and wet anyway, so we turned around.
On the way out we bumped into Rhys, Tanguy, Nathaniel and Josh for a cheeky photo sesh in Big Chamber By The Entrance before eventually heading back to the hut. This was made extremely difficult since we had to stay 200m apart so used a combination of 3 flashes and perception to make it look like we were all standing on the rock. The walk back was made all the more enjoyable with the addition of a frisbee, although running into the hedges to retrieve it became gradually less fun. Food was great, roast veg and mash is definitely going to feature more often, and so is a bottle of whisky. Caving games were a large social affair since nottingham had 18 people to add to our 20. I was glad that everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and slunk off to bed an hour earlier than the team at about 1am.
As we deliberated on Saturday morning, over the usual plate of fat and carbs, I asked for the most photogenic freshers for my trip. I was assigned Nathaniel and Josh. Surely some mistake? In the end it was to be the aforementoned plus Tanguy and myself forming the crackest team OFD has ever seen. Tanguy seemed to have a plan for where to go and I was content to follow wherever he led.
In cave I felt like we were taken on quite the whirlwind tour. We started down Salubrious and at the shattered pillar a little while later took the sneaky way on through the boulders, into Lagubrious (I think). From there I have little idea of how we got the places we got to. I think we visited, Midnight chamber + passage and Deja Rue. The sump at Deja Rue is really lovely. Very reminiscent of the stuff we get in Slovenia.
Also the formations in the Deja Rue passage are well worth a look. Stunning coloured calcite on the walls and these blobs of brown calcite all over the floor, as though a clumsy chocolatier has spilt caramel as he walked through. There's also a particularly fine yonic formation, which is quite rare in caves (they tend to be phallic). Everyone was very obliging when it came to photos so I enjoyed that as well.
I also have no idea how Tanguy got us out as we arrived back at the shattered pillar by a different way (via cross rift?). We decided to head out via Edward's shortcut. It often seems in OFD that you are quite far from the surface but the labyrinthian nature means that you are sometimes really not that far!
We ran into Perry and DKPs group in Gnome Passage who claimed they were heading out (though walking the wrong way). We maintained a strict 200m seperation between our groups as we exited (to comply with the OFD rules) and the photo of our groups together in the big chamber near the entrance is computer trickery.
At the hut the evening descended into the usual games and revelry. This time we were joined by NUCC who proved to be very good company.
One of the first in the kitchen to make a start on breakfast. Lots of mushrooms to cut and fry, then sausages (they take longer to cook anyway). More people stream in… ‘What can I do to help?’ ‘The usual, beans, cutlery, bacon… yes, add smoked paprika to the mushrooms, why not?’
Bellies full, the master table make plans, divide into teams. Rhys and I lead with Nathaniel and Backwards talking Josh. Lovely! ‘The traverse?’ ‘Mmmh, it’s been raining quite a lot, the streamway might be barred to you’ ‘Ok, then let’s do some photography, Rhys, I could lead to the places we saw last summer near the Northern lights. It’s a good trip, and out of the water. There’s lots of following a high level passage until it hits the deep Nant Newydd (Main Streamway) canyon.’
The drizzle stopped as we assembled outside, clouds drifted still but the walk up to Top Entrance was lovely as ever. We stopped right inside to take Nathaniel’s light off the travel mode, which took a surprising amount of time, but eventually the helmet was in working order and we set off along the familiar corridors. Slide on top of the massive, blue-black boulders of the Brickyard. Supposedly, this was similar to Minecraft, but having never played the game I couldn’t say.
Then it’s the vastness of Gnome Passage, pointing out the fallen Wedding Cake formation, the Corkscrew climb and entirely avoidable squeeze to the Salubrious streamway; boulder hopping, traversing over the gurgling waters, stepping in sandy ponds and picking a path on the boulder locked in moonmilk. Effusions of excitement (and fear?) over the President’s leap ‘Caving just got real!’ and more astonishment in Selenite Tunnel.
Eventually we arrive at the Shatter Pillar, a fourways junction, and the central node to our figure of eight trip. Straigh across, a climb down through boulders is the way to Lugubrious passage. Cue more climbing down to the stream level and the start of an exciting small meander passage. There’s a bit of climbing up and down, but essentially we stayed near the stream level, past some honey yellow organ formations, very reminiscent of Mendip caves, until just after a straight section with pink colouring to the wall rocks where the passage enlarges to a junction. There, the water spashed away between boulders, heading south. To the right, a small inlet with a conspicuous rock bridge above: the way to Midnight chamber, our objective.
But first, a detour to Lugubrious passage, with a massive flowstone, a balcony overlooking Nant Newydd, big fossils on the wall and a tunnel shaped passage not dissimilar to Selenite. Helictites, stalactites, corals… the last bit follows an obvious calcited fracture, until yet again we meet the main streamway, or rather where it would have been hundreds of thousands of years previously. Rhys whipped out his camera and we worked together to give it justice. All the while, the low, ominous rumble of the stream rose up from the misty depths of the nearby canyon.
Then, on to Midnight chamber, with it’s Shatter Pillar Mk II. Rhys pointed out a peculiar column, no longer than finger which looks as if it is supporting an entire section of limestone bed. Very strange! It was time to eat. Nathaniel worried he’d split a nail somehow, but it turned out to be a spot of cave mud filling the keratin fabric.
The second spindle on our figure of eight trip was a photo trip to Déjà Rue. From Midnight chamber, heading north past a decorated aven ( the Skyhook pitch) with orange cordelette, we passed small crystal pools before entering a high rift. Upstream, and past a pool (and several more obstacles) lie the Northern Lights extensions. Downstream, we quickly join a large inlet and move up the moonmilk cascades to a dig: the spacious crawl emerges at the top of Déjà Rue.
The peculiar high passage is the result of a twisting phreatic tube moving upwards with time (an example of a paragenetic gallery). Eventually we reached a decorated sump and take more photographs. The entire place is decorated exclusively with caramel coloured formations, I suspect the result of humic and fulvic acid impurities percolating down the cracks and fractures which formed the cave in the first place.
The last spindle of our trip was a third visit to the Nant Newydd canyon, from Midnight chamber into the Upper Great Oxbow series, which I’d never been to before. When we reached the ‘Traverses’ as they are called on the OFD survey, we recalled that ‘discretion is the better part of valour’. They are truly terrifying; we made up for it by exploring someone’s dig for several tens of metres: beautiful red sands dug to the perfect dimensions and a cool draft issuing from a hole no larger than ten centimetres at the exploration front. Why stop?
Time to go, second lunch at Midnight chamber and then through Cross-rift to the Shatter Pillar again. The climbs started to get very taxing for Nathaniel and Josh but with their indomitable optimism we laboured through the Edward’s shortcut route, briefly taking a wrong turn towards an unclimbable drop. On the way we started to meet other groups, bumping into one of Cardiff’s at the tricky climb up to Gnome Passage, then an Oxford chemist and biologist whose job it was to decipher the subtleties of micro-biota on separate Gnomes and their impact on isotopic composition of the speleothem calcite. Many of their previous caves and climate records were based on the assumption that the microbial population did not interfere with the chemistry of the growing crystals.
Finally, we ran into another ICCC group, led by Perry and Arun. We showed the way out, briefly stopping for a photo session in the Big Chamber near the Entrance. Out before sunset, so we played frisbee on the walk down to the cottage, where my dinner plans had been ‘massacred’ (always the euphemistic types Jack and Jarv, they are).
The food was piled high on the plates: rich, creamy potato and celeriac mash, gorgeous gravy and indulgent carrots and parsnips singing on my palate a paean to root vegetables.
I’d started sipping at my wine in the common room when Lydia, Jacob and Louise, leading their Nottingham crew arrived, in force. And then, the games began…
Up vaguely bright and not overly early to the smell of breakfast and the sounds of many groggy cavers (Nottingham and some other clubs were also staying so it was pretty busy!). Teams were picked and I ended up in a group with Jarv, Peter, Ben and Mark, heading down to the streamway which would involve ladders. I'd never been to OFD before so I was quite amazed at how beautiful it was compared to Aggy (sorry). We were stopped just inside the cave by the realisation that my helmet was ridiculously dim and I couldn't see at all. Jarv's solution was to stab it with a knife which did the trick. Apparently the answer to all problems is either stabbing or not stabbing something.
We went down past Gnome passage, which me and a few freshers thought was "Known" passage for quite some time. It was cool regardless of the name. I'm not entirely sure of the route we took but we went down either the corkscrew or spiral climb (I think one of these is in Slov and the other in OFD) and eventually Jarv rigged a ladder which wasn't needed on the way down but was useful as a hand line. We went down a bit more and that's where the fun (?) started. We first went down a fixed ladder that had a rather powerful waterfall pouring over it, a nice refreshing shower after getting very warm on the way. There was then a slightly dodgy climb that wasn't too bad on the way down but a nightmare on the way out. Finally Jarv rigged some rope for a handline to take us down to the streamway. It was a lot deeper than expected and Peter "decided" he'd go for a swim. We pulled our oversuits out of our wellies to stop them from being swept away by the current. We walked for what felt like quite a while until we reached a cascade that looked pretty scary and we decided to stop on a bank and have some chocolate, or in my case, Soreen which is definitely better. The way back was faster but more scary as we moved with the current that threatened to slip us up at every step. Getting back up using the handline was easier than expected but the dodgy climb was tricky and I stupidly ended up sat in the pool at the top with my legs hanging over the edge. A perfectly nice position if the water from the waterfall wasn't building up behind me, starting to push me back down. Luckily Jarv came to the rescue and made sure I didn't fall whilst changing positions and moving away from the edge. The way out was pretty much plain sailing after this except for a few terrifying holes in the ground and a seemingly impossible climb in Edward's Shortcut. Both Mark and I used Jarv as a ladder.
We got back to the hut and prepared dinner which involved cutting our own body weight in carrots, parsnips and celeriac and making onion gravy. The food was good and we quickly relocated to the living room with beer and the intention of beating Nottingham at all the caving games. May and I won the pot and sling game and I forget who won the squeeze machine but it certainly wasn't me. After a considerable amount of alcohol, some drinking games were played and strange activities such as running around the garden and swapping t shirts commenced.
OFDII->Stream & back: Jarv, Diss, Peter, Ben, Mark
I do love a bit of OFD II! We set off with gear, aiming to rig Maypole inlet. This was a required aim, as Jack was potentially doing the through trip to OFDII. There had been quite significant rain, but you never do know. As we had the gear, and others might want to visit the stream, we aimed for direct via the Corkscrew and Salubrious.
Unfortunately almost immediately we were stopped before we had started, by Diss having a failing light (Duo with an insert). After the usual fix-attempts by rattling the batteries, special circumstances in an attempt to avoid returning to the SWCC were engaged, and the light unit was opened. Luckily it turned that the failure was just caused by the bulb inset coming loose, soon fixed with an adept turn of the 'can opener' of my pen knife as a screw driver. (Nb: We looked at all the lights later, to try and debug / fix.)
We zoomed off and down. As we had got in relatively early, we had the place to ourselves. Already at the fairy steps, it was sounding quite wet down here. I put a 5 m ladder on the chockstone near the rear of the steps - after seeing someone tumble here, I'm very cautious! It's also good to get practice playing with electron ladders.
The MayPole stream was really quite high, and the fixed ladder absolutely drenching, in spite of trying to kick water down. Diss was following, and made the mistake of sitting down on the climb below - to suddenly find many kilos of water backing up behind her, and trying to persuade her down!
At the inlet itself, I was really quite taken aback. I had never seen it so high. "Dear God, I hope Jack has decided to try and force it through..." I thought, as I rigged a handline with fistfuls of fist sized Alpine Butterflies. I dropped the rope down, and in seconds it was suddenly streaming out almost horizontal, the long warp dragging out. I hauled it back up the passage with some difficulty, and coiled off the excess section. Dropping it back down, it was just long enough to touch the water, whereupon it started skipping up in the air and bouncing back off the flowing stream, like a speed boat.
Shouting over the roar, I announced I was going to go down and see how bad it was.
The stream was about thigh deep. Tentatively stepping with one and then the other leg, I decided it wasn't immediately dangerous, just very formidable. A shouted exchange, and the others came down, some more elegantly than others.
I proposed we head upstream, for just a short while. Upstream against a high flow is always safer (if harder), as you are less likely to have your feet knocked away. (Much like climbing up something, is safer and easier than down-climbing.) I also knew the first bit of stream about the MayPole inlet is fairly benign. I was also concerned that we might see a 'bog burst' or similar, and be suddenly faced with the stream going into a proper (fatal) flood.
The stream was really quite impressive, loud and very exciting. With fit people, for a short while, it was quite safe - but without much margin. There was far too much white water to spot where your feet were going, so all the pools and cracks gobbled our legs. After a few hundred metres of heavy going, we climbed up onto an Oxbow ledge, and had a rest and a chocolate bar. On the way back I made Peter go first - as he would be the best at stopping anyone whisked away from going further!
We exited to the aven just near the crossroads, where we had stashed our Daren with lunch. There were some noises of Nottingham folk down the muddy holes. Arun and Perry's group then turned up, which we disuaded from believing that they were standing at the corkscrew, and instead pointed in the direction of the Maypole.
Ourselves, we took Ed's shortcut backwards. We met a number of curious characters on the way out - a solo cave photographer in the frozen river, some echoes of what I believed to be Rhys' group as they passed in the lower level, and then a university group.
The university group were not looking that smiley. They were heading down Ed's shortcut, in spite of the late hour. After usual hellos and goodbyes, we set off out, only to be recalled by a failed Scurion on one of this groups lights. Helping open the battery box with my penknife (second time today!) didn't help matters much, so I lent my backup-Tikka. Uneventful exit, bumping into some scientists in Gnome passage, and then getting the less-experienced to lead out. (Quite admirably really! Though I did suspect we were going to loop back via those funny wet chambers beyond the entrance chamber for a while...)
Coming out so early, unsurprisingly we found ourselves chopping the many vegetable and coaxing all three ovens into roasting. With some relief (for in my clock watching, I knew that Cwm Ddu to look at the Confluence and back, would not take so much time...) Jack's team turned up only slightly mad-staringly-eyed. Stories of plunging depths, and the horrifying realisation once turned-around, that downstream was more difficult and dangerous, could be attributed to 'experience', now that everyone was definitely not drowned (and therefore not duffer).
Later than evening, post-food and a few caving games in. (Though no alcohol for me, as I don't often drink...) I found myself putting my caving gear on again to go and be part of the initial rescue shout for the aforementioned university group. Some have said I was so keen to help only to go recover my Tikka, rather than the deeply meaningful brotherhood of the cave. Either way, putting on our damp caving gear had the desired effect, in causing news of the missing cavers to come echoing over the radio down the hill. As it turned out, they had just been very slow and slightly lost, and with unhappy faces not wanted to recross the traverses in Ed's shortcut.
OFDII: Alex Betts, Alex Seaton, Arun Paul, Jennifer R, May Law, Peter Ganson, Jack Hare, James Perry, Jean-Yves Burlet, Joshua Newington, Nathaniel Oshunniyi, Rebecca Diss
Cwm Dwr -> OFDII: Ben Richards, Jarvist Frost, Rhys Tyers, Tanguy Racine
Felicia and Rayson from my team on the saturday informed me they had no caving intentions. This Hurt. I informed everyone else that the cave had broken them but to my disappointment May informed us that “It wasn’t the cave. You broke them”. I was eager to have a better day of caving! Formed a Crack group with Jack, Jean, Nathaniel and Josh and after a huge morning farce Diss ended up being the cherry on the cake. We headed off to poached egg which turned into a novice leading bimble before turning back to take photos in Arete Chamber.
After this we tried to find the connection to Big Chamber By the Entrance, what we found was an awesome passage with plenty of dodge. As Diss and I were stood next to a deep puddle I ignored her cries of "I'm sinking" until her shouting made me turn around and discover she was a good foot shorter! On Nathaniel's discovery of the sinking mud pool he became even more terrified of water and most of the group struggled to stay out of the water. We then came to a very fun mud slope/climb. I liked this climb as after completing it I was called "inhuman" by Nathaneil and I felt a sense of false credibility. After careful deliberation of whether or not it was too difficult we started dragging novices upwards and onwards (although they all practically did it themselves). As I was watching Diss I heard Natheniel proclaim "Don't do that! I wasn't stable yet!" This concerned me. I turn the corner to discover a long slopping mud slide which ended with a drop into a rift. We hastily turned back as I wasn't comfortable in filling out the SALUS report on that one. (Note to self, do go here again!)
I decided not to eat anything before driving all the way back myself. I mostly forgot to swap because a 3 hour game of contact was distracting me. But I also just wanted to get back and knew a few pints at the union would fill me up.
After a very dry trip on Saturday I wanted to see some water. It seemed all the other groups had gotten into the streamway (and been thoroughly terrified by it, due to some rainfall) and I was quite jealous. As it happened we were meant to be portering Tony Seddon's dive kit into Cwm Dwr. We assembled our most capable (gullible) cavers to carry the cylinders, lead and flippers. So it was that me, Jarv, Tanguy and fresher Ben were loaded up and on our way to Cwm Dwr. Due to the lower water levels we thought it might be possible to do the Cwm Dwr to OFD II through trip after dropping off the dive kit.
The Cwm Dwr crawl was not as bad as I imagined it. It's quite long, but rarely flat out and (at least on this day) rarely very wet. I also find the gravelly floor to be quite a comfortable surface (the stones were smallish). If I hadn't had a bag full of lead it might have almost been pleasant. As it was, between my heavy load and the brutal pace set by Tanguy (does he know any other pace), the crawl was quite enough for me and I was relieved to be out the other side.
Tanguy expertly navigated the boulder choke that fools so many others. He did it quick enough that I don't think I could find my way through! Once in the big passage we stomped to a cross roads where we dumped the dive kit, Jarv carefully checking the cylinders for leaks. The Cwm Dwr big passage is lovely, I really want to come back to photograph some of the cascades.
We quickly got into the streamway and started an hour and a half of fighting the water up stream. It was really fun! There was just enough water to make it interesting I think. Some sections have really deep pools and we decided the best way to traverse them was to jump across and hope you could grab the other side as swimming against the current was not an option.
Once at Maypole inlet it seemed that we were basically out. I very much appreciated the ladder on the 30ft climb(?). I will definitely be doing that in future. We went via Salubrious and quickly we are the entrance and into day light once more. A classic trip! I think next I'd like to have a look in OFD 1.
Tony Seddon had contacted the club some time before; he intended to dive the Cwm Dwr sumps, not 1 hour from the surface. By any standards, this was one of the most diving exploration projects in Wales today. Jarv, Rhys and Ben Richards were recruited to carry diving gear to the sump and carry it back out. I was excited to see someone dive first hand (I’ve never done this before).
As we were getting ready to go down, Tony informed us that he’d spend the morning selling equipment at the hut and would go diving later. This meant we would only sherpa the cylinders, reel and fins to an obvious place near the sumps and would be free to continue on our way. So we decided we’d attempt the Cwm Dwr to OFD traverse.
Ben had been in the army, and caving before. Rhys discarded his photography kit to travel light. Jarv was Jarv. Swiftly we arrived at the confluence in Cwm Dwr, knowing that we had the best part of one hour in the most sporting streamway in the UK ahead of us. So we stormed through, up the plungepools and the cascades, under the sprays of Marble Showers - a truly must see plethora of white to orange tiger stripes along the black, twisting stream passage.
We briefly had to forgo the stream (cause: sump) and climb into the great oxbow. It was as one would expect the main streamway to look if it was suddenly drained of all its water, and eerily silent, that is until we neared the main streamway again. After the awkward climb down, we carried on upstream, stepping on dolomitised pavements, and climbing over short waterfalls all the way to Maypole Inlet.
We derigged the ladder and ropes put in place the day before and climbed up a fixed ladder. Then for some reason, Jarv told me to wait as he was doing something to provide me a dry ascent. For the life of me, I don’t know what it was supposed to be, because next I heard the rush of mini-flood pulse coming my way. Shouting, cursing and thoroughly drenched I ascended.
Was it supposed to be so short, the Cwm Dwr to Top traverse? It certainly looked like a long undertaking from the distance that had to be covered on the survey, but we’d done it in roughly three hours. It now feels like the obvious next steps in my exploring OFD would be to go to either I or III. Roll on Wales III.
I somehow woke up before the usual early birds and spent some time with a mug of tea and a headache before others emerged and we made breakfast. I was feeling a little worse for wear (totally unrelated to the alcohol, honest) and so wasn't super enthusiastic about a long trip. Ended up in Jack's group, intending to go to OFD3 and find something to do with an egg that I forget the name of. We got some way and came to a pitch which likely needed rigging and we didn't have any rope so decided to go and explore other places. We found some excellent small tubes for Nathaniel to insert himself into as well as a large pool of water over a very muddy floor. I managed to sink to well above my knees before being pulled out by Perry. We then came to a large chamber with a big hole in the floor (meant to be avoided) and a scary traverse. Jack and I stayed put whilst the others traversed across to be photographed. We then found an alternative route and met the others before heading out.
Back at the hut we did a quick tidy up of some of the communal areas, leaving the kitchen and changing rooms for Nottingham to sort out as they weren't all back yet. Had some food before "GET IN THE BACK OF THE VAN" was yelled, and we all clambered in. Most of the freshers were asleep pretty quickly and the rest of us played Contact which made the time pass quickly.
All in all a great weekend. Having so many people there was a real plus.
P.S. Keep your Soreen close, there is a thief on the loose."