James Wilson, Matti Mitropoulos, Ellie Pizey, Jan Kożuszek, Astrid Rao, Julien Jean, Laura Temple, Kevin Sohn, Olly Cunningham, Isabelle Atkinson
Pwll Dwfyn: James Wilson, Ellie Pizey, Jan Kożuszek, Laura Temple, Kevin Sohn
Although I specifically came on this trip not to do the OFDII round trip… its pull is jut too strong. I was convinced to do it, under the condition that I’d be able to extend it out not via swamp creek, midnight passage, and frozen river as is typical, but via maypole inlet and the OFDII main streamway. What finally cemented the route was some guy in the SWCC saying that there was a rope swing across a pool on the way to Top Waterfall – that sounded awesome.
Slightly slower change than was usual but we were underground by about 12:30 – pretty good. Obviously we immediately got lost in the brickyard, and somehow managed to loop round to the entrance without realising it. Trying again, this time we made it to gnome passage and the wedding cake without problems, only taking a slightly weird route over a minor traverse. Here unfortunately Isabelle was starting to have serious period pains and was worried that they would get worse as the trip carried on. I completely forgot that I had a med kit which (probably) had paracetamol in it – I felt quite bad about that, and made a note to actually use the med kits which Ellie had spent so many hours putting together last year. I escorted her to the entrance and made sure she knew how to get back into the hut before re-joining the group at high speed. Through salubrious, we made the classic detour to the Trident and Judge, and headed on down through the crossroads to maypole inlet. We had been warned about the climb down being quite tricky and there indeed are no good handholds at all – Astrid and I scrambled around mostly by friction climbing, jamming ourselves into the wide rift as best as possible. I rigged a handline into the low streamway, and helped Julien and Olly to fall in a mostly controlled manner. We made sure to leave the rope there so we were sure not to miss the climb on the way out.
Down the little stream we winded and twisted and turned, eventually making it to the very shaky, but surprisingly rust-free ladder. A further two free climbs took us into the extremely low streamway, and we slowly made our way through the awesome caverns beneath the Welsh greenery. I made sure to get myself wet as quickly as possible so there was no incentive to expend energy trying to stay dry.
Eventually we made it to what seemed to be the rope swing that the SWCC man was describing; unfortunately it didn’t quite live up to the hype. It had been tied up almost completely out of reach, and it was far easier to just traverse round the side of the pool. Nevertheless we swung around on it a bit before making our way on. We eventually got to the section where we would have to submerge up to chest height (or swim if you’re Astrid-height) – some deliberation was done but we eventually decided to push through to make it to Top Waterfall. Turns out this was the very bypass-able Forbidden Guinness that James had been describing to me earlier that day; whoops. We made sure to sprint the rest of the way to avoid getting too cold, and eventually got to the quite impressive Top Waterfall. Some quick photos and we ran off again, taking a short break before the Guinness, and sprinting on to maypole inlet.
Back up we went without issue, Astrid and I providing knees and shoulders to climb on at various heights. At the top of the inlet we had a choice – either return the way we came or complete the round trip via the feared Edward’s Shortcut. Julien was tiring quite a bit but seemed ok to carry on to complete the round trip. Once we got there however it transpired that may have been a slightly more ambitious decision than I initially anticipated. Astrid clambered over with immense agility, and Olly followed instruction well and calmly traversed over without difficulty. Julien was able to lean across the gap to support himself well, but struggled to complete the traverse at the central break point. His arms started shaking as exhaustion struck and I had a brief moment of The Fear as it looked like he might just fall into the chasm. Luckily Astrid was able to backtrack from the other side and guide his feet to footholds so that he could rest, and partially supported his weight. That worked ok for a few seconds, but then something shifted and he began to slowly slide into the drop – another flash of The Fear flickered, until Astrid managed to adjust her weight to compensate, and everything was fine again.
Somehow we always think ‘ah Edward’s shortcut is scary but its actually fine’ and then every time we get there and something like that happens and we make a note that Edward’s shortcut actually has potential to be dangerous. Some day we’ll learn…
OFD II to OFD I: James Wilson, Ellie Pizey, Laura Temple, Kevin Sohn
I was the first up so cooked breakfast, but didn’t manage everything that well so ended up filling the entire huge SWCC kitchen with thick black smoke; As the last foods were finishing up Jan came down and said that the smoke had penetrated even into the bunk rooms, which I was quite proud of.
James had mentioned doing 2-1 on Saturday and I had initially thought he was joking, but he assured me with a small fast team it could be done on a Sunday. Although I had once walked through the OFDI streamway I remembered very little of it so was quite happy to take a large group down to facilitate a small crack team doing the through trip. I decided to keep things interesting by walking in through the stream, then using the escape routes to get to the high level traverse before dropping back into the streamway and stopping by Pluto’s Bathtub. Gathering together all the harnesses and cow’s tails (thanks James) we followed another group to the OFD1 entrance and descended the ladders to the entrance. Astrid was navigating, briefly taking a wrong turn at the very start but found the stream without much difficulty. We completely missed The Step and the first few escape routes, eventually finding a chain and climbing up into the drier high level. Some fun clambering and scrambling followed and we eventually made it to what looked like a dead end chamber. The survey indicated there should be a small opening somewhere that leads into the ‘Elephants Arsehole’ so we scattered to try find it among the boulders. Sure enough, after a few minutes I found a tiny, well-worn gap that dropped into an ante-chamber. Astrid led, and mentioned that it was quite a drop down to the floor but didn’t quite emphasise the importance of looking for footholds on the way down, so Jan dropped down with confidence and slid down quite a terrifying slide before hitting the floor. We took a minute to check he wasn’t injured, but he assured us he was ok so we collectively slugged into the squeeze.
Shortly after, we reached the notorious ‘bolt traverse’ – the one section of OFD which actually involves permanent rigging (thank god). After double checking safe cow’s tails use and ‘rope free’ etiquette we threw ourselves onto the ledge. Its quite a fun section of cave and everyone managed without too much difficulty so we were back in the streamway soon after via another of the escape routes. Pushing call out was on my mind in the high level since we were in unfamiliar cave and I wasn’t sure what would come up that might take time, but once we were in the stream I relaxed again.
As planned we stopped off at Pluto’s Bathtub before leaving which I decided to traverse rather than swim through, but some took a quick dip before we exited. A quick walk back to the hut and we were underway with the cleaning process before long. Kevin had left a spare pair of wellies at the OFDII entrance (sigh…) so I ate some pasta bake on the way to retrieve them.