Tuesday, 3 May 2011

South Wales

29th April - 2nd May 2011
An excellent long weekend at Whitewalls where we met up with Emma and Nial. Three cracking trips, followed by a lazy afternoon at Big Pit on Monday when we were all too broken to do any more caving.
Caves attempted:

Craig a Ffynnon - Promised Land

Estimated time underground:
Usually we go to Craig for a slack Sunday trip and turn round at the Hall of the Mountain King, so it was good to have the opportunity to explore the far end of the cave; known as the Promised Land. Beyond the Hall of the Mountain King, there's a long crawl, followed by some larger passage and then a boulder choke, to reach the top of a small pitch. It seemed somehow appropriate that just like those random people in London, we were also trying the knot - except we were getting Italian hitched as we belayed each other down the ladder...I'll get my coat...
The Hall of the Mountain King; Nial bottom left

The Promised Land is a mostly-pleasant, long, straight passage which is tantalisingly close to Daren at it's far end. Back at the top of the ladder, we had a quick side trip to look at the very nice formations in Helictite Passage, but unfortunately I don't think my photos came out very well.

Ogof Draenen - Round Trip

Estimated time underground:
Previous CUCC attempts at the Draenen round trip had apparently resulted in major route finding headaches and a missed callout, so it wasn't without a little trepidation that we decided to give this one a go. We made quick time through the entrance series, past Megadrive and as far as the Arms Park. This was where the route finding really began, as this was new territory for us.

The first obstacle was Squirrel Rifts - a confusing complex of passages which, on the survey at Whitewalls, looks like a toddler has been scribbling randomly on a piece of paper. The description we had with us suggested we followed our noses to get through this section and couldn't go too far wrong. I guess our noses must be crooked in just the right manner because we seemed to find our way through to the climbs down into Haggis Basher without too much difficulty.

Heading downstream, we joined the large gravel-floored Agent Blorenge streamway, which eventually became narrower and led, via some tricky climbs, to The Sewer and The Sewer II - wet sections/ducks (although the second sewer can be bypassed by climbing up the rift before the duck). Agent Blorenge eventually joined the main Beyond a Choke streamway, and at this point we turned upstream. A kilometre of very pleasant stream passage (and a couple of very minor boulder chokes) brought us back to White Arch Passage and the entrance series (we missed the turn off for Tea Junction or Wonderbra bypass, which would have offered a bit of a shortcut to Beer Challenge crawl).

The round trip is really fun, with a huge variety of caving but not too much that's difficult or terrifying. It was also very nice to see a different bit of Draenen finally.

Daren Cilau - Frog Street

Estimated time underground:
The past two years of caving had been great fun. Streamways, abseiling, prusiking, climbing, great formations and huge passages. Unfortunately all good things must come to an end. It was time to go back to Daren (minus Kathryn, who found that the very mention of this idea brought on a migraine). So it was that the three of us inserted our already-ailing bodies into Daren's squalid entrance crawl in an attempt to find some recently discovered formations in Frog Street. Forty-five minutes later we were striding down Jigsaw Passage in slightly better spirits, and two hours of moderately arduous caving saw us down at the bottom end of Bonsai Streamway, looking for climbs up into higher level passages.
The first climb we tried, turned out to be a wrong turn. Two electron ladders and a handline climb (which should really be called a pitch!) led to a fairly small tube. This in turn led to a very pleasant sandy-floored passage which we explored in both directions - left leading to a traverse arounnd a hole. The survey back at Whitewalls showed that we were in Half-Mile Passage, and the hole led down to Crystal Inlet. We'd actually climbed out of Bonsai Streamway at the Eastern Flyover.
Pleased with our find, but still keen to see Frog Street, we returned to Bonsai Streamway and finally found the correct climbs up. This was much more like what we were expecting - flat out crawling. A left hand turn led into an even smaller, body-sized tube. Just as mild claustrophobia was beginning to get the better of me (there was no room to turn round and no sign of the tube getting any bigger) we intersected a slightly larger passage and soon arrived at a dazzling set of straws and helictites. Crawling under the formations with amazing urchins and corkscrews inches from our noses was even scarier! I can't even begin to imagine digging under them.

After various appropriate 'ooh's' and 'aaa's' and plenty of photos we began the trek out, and immediately realised how broken we already felt after three days of caving.

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