Wales 0


Arun Paul, Ben Honan, Ben Richards, David Wilson, James Perry, James Wilson, Leo Antwis, Valery Kirenskis, Kevin Sohn


Cnwk to Daren via Time Machine: Ben Richards, David Wilson, James Wilson, Valery Kirenskis

The wonderful view from whitewalls

After a rather slow start to the (incredibly picturesque) morning (likely due to David's instant headache-inducing homebrew) the two epic trips of the day were put together. Torn as to which to choose, I had initially wanted to finally complete the grand circle on one of Perry's legendary guided tours. However, I can rarely resist the allure of a giant chamber, and Time Machine being the largest passage in the UK proved too much of an opportunity to turn down.

After realising that we'd forgotten the rope and tackle sacks, we then realised that we had forgotten to pack Valery's kit. At this point, not wanting to miss out on all the fun, I promptly forgot to pack my headtorch, having left it in London. Fortunately, Ben Honan wasn't caving having lost an entire limb to a traumatic shark attack while surfing in Bali, and so I could use his permanently-in-disco-rave-Darude-Sandstorm-mode headlight for the upcoming 10-hour trip.

Finally, we set off towards the caves with the two Dubz both insisting they knew the fastest way to the entrance and thus each going off on their own paths before both meeting up at precisely the same time, where the paths later joined.

5 metres into the cave, Valery realised that he had dropped his gloves somewhere on the walk to the cave, and the prospect of the long day's caving followed by the Daren entrance crawl was seeming less and less appealing. Eventually, he decided to turn back, leaving me and the two Dubz.

Antler passage

We pushed on through Cnwk, quite a nice entrance compared to Daren although it took about an hour longer to get to Time Machine. While there is a little crawling here and there, none of it comes close to the Daren entrance and with my new certified bombproof Rolson builders knee pads on recommendation from Perry, my knees glided over the painful mud and rock.

After some exciting scaffolding and a little more crawling, we popped out into Price's Prophesy, walking/climbing over boulders which ended up being the vibe of most of the rest of Cnwc. Antler passage in particular is just a very long tube full of very large boulders. Fortunately, David had been before so he knew the best way around many of them, but this could have taken far longer otherwise since every route looked slick and well-trodden - presumably because no one else knows where they're going either. The antlers themselves were some quite impressive helictites. This passage may have proved less fun for novices, as there were quite a few very slippery free climbs and somewhat scary chain ladders, but I enjoyed myself anyway.

Urchin oxbow

Urchin Oxbow had some very pretties, which I could actually capture for once having brought a small 10-year-old compact camera with me in a peli case (it's finally happening, I'm getting into cave photography!). They were quite impressive little spiky balls, with many other crystals around such as brown spiky things and shiny wall crystals.

After popping into the big chamber nowhere near the entrance (so unoriginal) and James going to sign our names, we headed on towards Time Machine. A few passages of stomping, squeezing and scaling later, we came to perhaps the worst pitch I've ever ascended (I'm struggling to think of one I like less anyway). Despite having almost all of my SRT gear, since we're in a non-SRT cave the pitch was a very long chain ladder with a lifeline. However, each rung of the ladder had some stand-off prongs so that it wouldn't lie flush against the wall, trapping your fingers. While I did enjoy not having my fingers crushed, these rungs got caught on absolutely everything, especially on the way up. Halfway up the pitch the first ladder ends and the second begins. While the second ladder is attached to the first, it goes off at 45 degrees to the vertical, meaning there isn't a chance you could climb the thing since you'd flip over and be doing pull-ups. Fortunately, there's a slippery muddy ledge 10m off the floor for you to try and keep your legs from wiping out underneath you. After this ordeal, there's another 10m of climbing until finally you reach the top and have to grab onto some danging chains to lunge for the traverse to clip your cow's tails into. After this ordeal, and then furiously belaying the next team member up behind you with rope so stiff you have to use both hands to pull it through an Italian hitch, your arms are completely knackered. Up until this point on the trip I'd felt quite energetic, but the ladder managed to completely drain my upper body strength, which made the hours of crawling incredibly unpleasant.

The ladder of doom

After this ladder and a couple of ultra slippery handline climbs, we stopped for a quick chocolate bar and cave sausage break by an enormous pile of underground camping kit waiting to be carried out. After removing our SRT and wandering down a few more chambers we finally reached the promised land. Time machine. I was quite impressed, apparently unlike some others the dubz have taken there, with the passage feeling a bit like a well-trodden slov passage. It really does go on for a while, and there are various interesting avens, formations and offshoots. James went off exploring the streamway while David was poking around the far end of Time Machine, which must have taken us about 30 mins to reach from the other end.

We turned around and retraced our steps, the janky ladder being particularly entertaining to watch David go down as he squealed and complained as things got caught and the ladder swung away from him. Zipping back through the various chambers we eventually reached the infamous Daren entrance crawl. Having heard so much about this, I was curious as to how bad it would be. The numbered phone connections provide a good psychological breakdown of the crawl as you count 10, 9, 8, ... with an annoying calcite squeeze right at the beginning forcing you down into the water right away. Most of the crawl is being sideways on one hand pushing yourself along a rifty streamway. Sometimes it gets big enough to stoop and walk, often it's so small you're dragging yourself through the water. The water levels were particularly low for us, and there was only one other point where I had no choice but to get my torso completely soaked. If we'd come in this way I'd have had a far less enjoyable trip, being cold and soaked in Time Machine rather than just soaked in sweat.

The complete lack of upper body strength left over after the various ladders, free climbs and handlines meant that by the time I got to the entrance I could hardly force my arms to keep pulling me along, but we eventually popped out into the warm and humid night air and wandered back to the hut above the lights of Crickhowell in the valley beneath us.

After arriving back at the hut (over two and half hours before our callout) we were greeted by a variety of sheep, Ben H, indoor hornets, Valery, and large quantities of bangers and mash. Everyone was completely knackered and complaining about obscure aches in unusual places. Clearly a sign of a successful Saturday.

Ben R

Aggy Grand Circle: Arun Paul, Ben Honan, James Perry, Leo Antwis, Kevin Sohn

Some people went on Perry's infamous Grand Circle tour. They all returned broken.



All in Eggy: Arun Paul, Ben Honan, Ben Richards, David Wilson, James Perry, James Wilson, Leo Antwis, Valery Kirenskis, Kevin Sohn

Everyone was so exhausted after the Saturday epics that even David who had previously planned to float out of some resurgence decided to go to Eggy. After giving up on the cackling buzz wire and finishing the nine linked rings puzzle with Perry that we found in a box (which took an eternity to figure out) I wandered over to the cave in walking boots and a fleece. After poking in a couple of entrances, Ben H started taking some cave photos of me with his firefly setup, which slowly lured in passing cavers. First Valery, who'd brought his DSLR, took photos of Ben H and I shaking hands, having signed what must have been the best trade deal in the history of trade deals. Then a passing Arun was convinced to come and stand in the main chamber and I signed a trade deal with him also, amongst other things. Eventually a Perry wandered past, in typical Perry fashion, and joined in the photoshoot. At this point Ben H finished arranging his flashes and a spectacular four-way handshake marked the signing of some quadrilateral trade deal before everything descended into chaos. Much fun.

The actual cavers had long gone, wandering off towards the back of the main chamber despite our attempts to get some actual cave photos of cavers in caving kit. Heading back we assumed they'd be back at the hut but they ended up getting back a short while after us. Hut cleaning, floor washing, door opening, milk chugging and climbing through the SRT practice hatch between the ground and upper floor all occurred before we finally left the hut and drove back home in the fleet of cars. A successful weekend!

Ben R