Wales I


Arun Paul, James Wilson, Jennifer R, Rebecca Diss, Ana Teck, Matti Mitropoulos, Ellie Pizey, Minghan Xiao, Leo Antwis, Chris Hayes, Thomas Tai, Luke Matthew


We made our way to various cars via various coaches, due to sad lack of minibuses. A select few lucky humans got the luxury of going in Jimmy’s car from Beit. In all this transport chaos, somehow a bag of wetsocks was packed, but we managed to squeeze everything into the cars. Arun’s car boot was not a fan of locking, but no kit was lost. Matti, Luke and Leo to the 4pm coach to Bristol to meet Jennifer who now has a driver’s licence and a mostly functional car. Diss, Chris and I took the 6pm coach to meet Arun after Diss felt too ill to drive (so much freshers flu going around).The Jennifer car crew did the shopping and us Arun car crew briefly met up with them in the Tesco car park. The trip was starting to feel more normal. We arrived at the Croydon at a very civilised time.


Things did not begin smoothly: 6 out of the 9 freshers that had signed up cancelled, some very last minute, prompting several short notice replacement freshers to be swept up, which left me running around making sure everyone who needed it had kit packed. Diss became too ill to drive, so Arun jumped in to make sure everyone got to Wales (many thanks). Despite all the setbacks, we successfully had 6 people on coaches and 4 in cars by 18:00, and by 22:30 the 8 of us in Jennifer and Arun cars had met up in the Bristol Tesco’s, shopping complete. By 00:00 we were all chatting in the Croydon’s living room. I went for an evening walk with Arun before turning in.



OFD II: Arun Paul, James Wilson, Jennifer R, Minghan Xiao, Leo Antwis, Thomas Tai

Incomplete sentences for the win!

I was highly confused when I arrived at the car park first - I'd given up following the others when I realised I was driving much slower! Walked around to double check, they definitely weren't there so I messaged them and got to changing. Diss's brief summary of the route back in the hut had been turn left constantly, this had led them astray as it was, in fact, turn right constantly. I had got Google maps up because I didn't have a chance of following them and that had saved us some extra faff.


Cwm Dwr: Rebecca Diss, Ana Teck, Matti Mitropoulos, Ellie Pizey, Chris Hayes, Luke Matthew

I actually managed to get up to make breakfast at 8am, though of course Jennifer was already up and shockingly awake. Classic caving breakfast cooking ensued on slightly challenging cookers. We realised, that putting the breakfast items onto plates on the table makes the food look infinitely fancier. Because we could only get one key for OFD/Cwm Dwr some strategic cave planning had to occur. We had conveniently managed to have exactly two groups of six (caver limit in these caves). Making our way to the caves proved a little difficult, with many wrong directions chosen (something something "I remember the way" and "it’s not this exit, is it"), but we made it eventually.

I ended up going to Cwm Dwr, which always makes me very happy. The other group wandered off to OFD2. We decided that the Cwm Dwr trip would be an excellent opportunity for Matti and Ellie to practice navigating through a cave from a fairly unreadable and ancient survey. Despite selling it as a lot of muddy crawling, Luke and Chris H. were shockingly keen. Chris, being Welsh, also taught us how to properly pronounce the cave and village names.

I was very sleepy in the entrance and seriously considered taking a nap in the category two tight space, it’s so cosy in there (though others disagreed with this statement). The walking passage, scrambling and traversing woke me up a bit, and by the time we were splashing through the streamway, I was feeling energetic again. We made our way to the first stream chamber, from where one can continue to OFD2. We had some delicious smoked cheese and unsmoked chocolate and turned back. Ellie and Matti did an excellent job at navigating, only requiring the occasional wrong-answer-buzzer sound from Diss or me. Chris and Luke showed disgusting competence and I fear they may have already been infected with the cave fungus (what a shame). On the way out we briefly investigated all the crawls into Big Shacks 2.

We had a leisurely change, while waiting for the OFD 2 team to return. Diss and me had a quick chat to Tony about the Birth Canal Series in Cwm Dwr to see if a round trip was possible, but apparently it is a grim place. Perhaps we shall venture there one day for a recce. The OFD 2 team returned in batches, and Arun’s car left a little earlier to buy crumpets and to start cooking. Soon we were back at the hut, merrily cooking chilli and rice, while enjoying the ridiculous luxury of hot chocolate.

The day ended with many caving games. It all started with pot and sling. Everyone managed to get the hang of it very well after the initial obligatory wabbles and falls. Diss and Luke won with some very skilful moves. No one knows how Matti manages to fit his long legs through the sling – it shall remain a mystery. The Croydon has many squeeze machinable objects, including the table, chair and possibly even the ceiling beams (though that remains to be tested). Everyone showed great skill as squeezing through spaces no one should really fit through, Jimmy briefly lived in a chair, and I somehow ended up stretched through all of the arms of two chair. No oil or fairy liquid was required. Finally, we played a game I had not experience before, which involved two humans holding onto a chair and trying to attach a krab to another chair far away. One human had to hold onto the first chair the whole time, while the other human was not allowed to stand on the floor and had to stand on the first human. This second human would then lean out as far as possible to clip the krab into the sling on the second chair. This is definitely a game for long humans. Many interesting techniques were attempted, most ending up with everyone on the floor. It was great fun.


Cwm Dwr and OFDII were decided over breakfast. I was keen to do some route finding so challenged Cwm Dwr with Ellie, with all-knowing Diss and Ana as backups if we got lost, leading freshers Chris (another one?) and Luke through the subterranean maze.

The entrance tube spat us out into an antechamber, giving us a brief pause to adjust to the environment, before feeding us into the ‘category B tight space’, which was actually quite manageable. Nevertheless a 15 minute crawl followed, bringing us to the beginning of the route finding. I mostly took the lead on the way down, only making a few wrong turns and inaccurate assumptions. Diss led us through the boulder choke as there was no information about that on the survey and it was very easy to get lost. Past main passage, the smithy, and the flood bypass, we eventually made it to the streamway. While the water was fairly high, it was still a comfortable stroll, although the uneven rocky bottom hidden by splashes meant the pace was slow. After a short climb up a waterfall we consumed some superlative smoked cheese and chocolate and turned around. Ellie did most of the route finding on the way back, including the difficult boulder choke.

The evening featured many games: pot and sling, squeeze machines, and clip the krab on the chair, which I had never played before. As the ‘longest implement in the kitchen’ (though Jarv has officially claimed that title) I enjoyed leaning across the room with Arun holding onto my ankle, though I didn’t appreciate his unreliable grip sending me flying into the chair. Finally a game that was size-ist in the vertical direction. As the humans retreated to the down, I went for a final stroll down the deserted lane but went a bit far, so napped in a hedge for a bit before returning.



OFD I: Jennifer R, Rebecca Diss, Matti Mitropoulos, Minghan Xiao, Leo Antwis, Luke Matthew, Arun Paul, James Wilson, Ana Teck, Ellie Pizey, Chris Hayes, Thomas Tai

I slept through most of breakfast cooking and a relaxed morning with some packing/hut cleaning occurred. Due to lack of multiple keys, we all decided to go into OFD1 – in two small groups of course.

My group directly headed to the Boulder Chamber via the step, while the second group did a little downstream diversion via Pluto’s Bath. OFD1 is excellently beautiful with its dark rock and white formations. Despite not having done much navigating in OFD1 for a while, I managed to find the way without major drama. At some point we ran into Little Si and some other humans. At the boulder chamber, cheese and chocolate were consumed. We had a quick look into the boulder choke, and the other group quickly appeared and disappeared in the meantime. On the way out, everyone tried balancing on the poles over the deep pools. We reached Pluto’s Bath, and all of my plans to keep my kit dry(ish) disappeared. This was the most people I have ever seen splash in the bath and the temperature was actually very civilised.

Back at the SWCC, after a rudely long walk uphill, Diss and I purchased more OFD/Cwm Dwr buffs from Little Si to complete our collection. The SWCC has a convenient card machine. We left the Croydon at 17:30 for some of us to get to Bristol for our 8pm coach. A wild Perry appeared at the bus station. Back in London, Matti took some people to stores to drop off kit, but we also gave people the option to take kit home and return it on Tuesday since we were approaching last tube time. Sadly, the central line was barely functional, and I ended up getting home only a little before Matti, despite his trip to stores. Overall and excellent weekend with many excellent humans.


As per usual, Sunday began slowly, but by 10:30 caves had been decided, to be promptly re-decided at 11:30. Although I was happy doing Cwm Dwr again to try some route finding alone, OFD I was the more popular destination so we all went down (in 2 groups of 6 of course). I had never been to OFD I so enjoyed the winding streamway with a fresh perspective. While 90% of the streamway floor was smooth and unthreatening, the remaining 10% was peppered with holes varying in depth between a few centimetres and a few metres, but it was impossible to tell until you fell thigh-deep into them. Therefore I spent most of the walk peering through the sloshing water to avoid dropping through the floor. Nevertheless, I enjoyed not having to think about anything more than not slipping over.

At the see-saw we caught up with the other group, so to avoid turning into a group of 12 we headed out before the boulder choke that the others were fiddling their way through. Leo spotted some of the prettiest fossils I had ever seen, and at Pluto’s bath some decided to have a muddy swim, followed by a swift exit.

While the drive to Bristol was quite enjoyable, the coach resulted in some kerfuffle – people were unsure if they wanted to go back to stores, there were two coaches and it wasn’t clear who would take which one, everyone had so many bags – chaos all round. But it all worked out as it always does, and by 23:00 Leo, Luke and I had thrown our bags into stores and said our farewells.