Monday, 31 December 2012

A Couple of Mines

A couple of quick mining trips to report before the New Year is out.

8/12/12 West Mine, Alderley Edge
An RRCPC trip with a Derbyshire Caving Club member, Nigel, kindly showing us round some of the extensive Alderley Edge Copper Mines. We spent about 4 hours underground (with a few minutes in Engine Vein) looking round an absolute maze of passages. As far as I could make out, West Mine was made up of 3 horizontal levels with various climbs, shafts and ramps connecting them. But I might be wrong...! There weren't too many mining artifacts left, but we did see some impressive vivid blue copper deposits where water had seeped onto the passage walls. We also saw a  mine shaft which  features in part of Alan Garner's Wierdstone of Brisingamen (a childhood favourite) - a good bit of trivia!

Engine Vein is a separate mine and, although it's less extensive, it looked very impressive and would warrant a return trip when we have more time.

24/12/12 Robin's Shaft Mine
Kathryn derigging the main shaft
Kathryn and I did some yuletide caving in the south of the Peak District. Robin's Shaft Mine consists of a 100m deep shaft inclined at about 45-60 degrees, leading to a small amount of natural cave at the bottom. It's an interesting SRT exercise to get down the shaft, but not too much to see at the bottom. A fine way to spend a very rainy Christmas Eve though! 2 hrs T/U.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Some South Wales and Yorkshire Caving

A few more trips to report before my next few weekends are filled up with various wedding related shenanigans.

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu

Martin and I had driven down to South Wales to help show CUCC's latest band of victims recruits round. With Martin, Adrian and three novices (Mikhail, Rui, Josh) we decided to try the OFD I round trip. Overall I think we did a pretty good job of persuading them that we knew precisely where we were despite this very much not being the case!
After stomping up the streamway and climbing up Lowe's Passage into the higher level stuff, I took a photo of Rui at the 'Bee's Knees' formations in Roundabout Chamber. This chamber is a classic place to confuse new cavers as the 'obvious' route leads you round a little circle back to where you started at the formations (unless you spot the actual way on which is slightly hidden). On our second time round I was asked to take another photo of the formations. I suggested that we wait as there were some more nice formations 'just round the corner'. On our third time round the penny finally dropped!
We continued on smugly and found the slithery climbs down to the bolt traverse above the streamway. After negotiating this we managed to follow our noses through various passages back to the Toast Rack to complete the round trip in about 4 hours or so.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Car Pot

6th October 2012

I'd been wanting to visit Car Pot for ages. Below the various awkward pitches and squeezes it's apparently really pretty. So Kathryn and I jumped at the opportunity to join Emma and Tom on a trip there.

A pre-trip Inglesport visit left me somewhat nervous ('Emma, if you die, can I have your oversuit?' among the reassuring utterances heard), especially as it had been so long since I'd last attempted a trip from the Black Book of Misery (and that attempt had ended about 10m into the cave).

We left Clapham and trudged up the lower flanks of Ingleborough in fine autumn sunshine and before I knew it I found myself at the bottom of the entrance pitch - so far so good.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Le Caving

Kathryn and I spent the first week of August in the Ecrins in the French Alps (via ferrata-ing and attempting some big mountains) before joining the Red Rose trip to the Vercors for some caving and canyoning.

Naturally I was hoping to post lost of photos of the amazing Vercors caves that we visited. Unfortunately on our second via ferrata my camera detached itself from my harness and went bouncing off into oblivion, never to be seen again. We returned the following day with a proper rope, intending to abseil off and hopefully find it clinging to an unlikely ledge. But one look at where it had fallen convinced us to give it up as a lost cause. RIP Canon Ixus 80IS, we had some good times together.

Here are some dodgy photos of some alpine scenery taken from my phone instead:

Monday, 23 July 2012

A Rematch with Fault Aven

21st and 22nd July at SWCC

Saturday: Ogof Fynnon Ddu 1 to Cwm Dwr via Fault Aven

A couple of years back I went to try and have a look at the Pom Pom, a formation in Fault Aven, high above the OFD streamway. We saw some pretty cool stuff that day, but had not quite gotten to the Pom Pom so I vowed to return one day for a second attempt, this time with a camera.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Two Trips in One Day!


I turned up at Bull Pot farm on Friday night fully expecting a long evening of 'socialising' followed by a late start and a short trip. Imagine my surprise then, when I arrived to find that caving plans had already been formed, and that they involved two trips and a 7 am start! Becka, James and Jenny were going to dig in Link Pot very early as James and Jenny needed an early getaway. Becka was then planning on doing Peterson Pot to Pippikin Pot with Patrick afterwards. Peterson Pot is not renowned for it's easy walking sized passages and is in found in the Black Book of Misery. Not having done much caving of late, I began to suspect I may have bitten off more than I could chew.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

A Few Random Trips

Not too much underground owing to various heinous surface-based activities, but a few trips to report.

5th May: Swinsto Hole with Tony and Kathryn, 2 hrs T/U

12th May: Took Kathryn's dad and sister down Moel Fferna, 2 hrs T/U:
A monster sized cavern in Moel Fferna

Monday, 30 April 2012

The Grind Circle

28th April

A couple of months ago Emma and Tom, plumbing new depths of squalour, discovered over 100m of new passage in a slightly obscure part of Link Pot known as 'The Grind'. The new stuff connected with Easy Street, below the Serendipity pitches. Thus a new round trip was born: down Serendipity and back out through the Grind. Kathryn and I joined them to help with the surveying and to complete the first ever 'Grind Circle', no doubt destined to become a modern classic for the perverse caver.

Monday, 23 April 2012


15th-21st April

The Barranco de Masca

Kathryn and I spent the week in Tenerife, for a combination of lava-tube-caving, snorkelling and walking. When you get away from the resorts and built up areas it's a spectacularly scenic place, and is well worth a visit.
Our first attempt at finding a lava tube (Cueva de San Marcos) ended in frustration as we spent a couple of hours trudging around looking for an entrance that was hidden somewhere on an inaccessibly steep hillside. Somewhat deterred from looking for lava tubes, we spent the next day doing the impressive Barranco de Masca canyon walk and snorkelling from the beach at the end.

Monday, 26 March 2012

A North Wales Mining Weekend

An unseasonably warm March weekend saw various cars converge on the caving/climbing hut in Tanygrisiau, the main aim being to complete the Croesor-Rhosydd through trip.

The Croesor Rhosydd Through Trip - 24/03/2012
Croseor and Rhosydd are two huge slate mines (more like quarries with a roof on top and a swimming pool at the bottom) on opposite sides of Moelwyn Mawr, above Tanygrisiau, a village near Blaenau Ffestiniog (is that the most unpronouncable sentence ever?). When the two quarries were still in use, a tunnel was driven to connect them. It is claimed that this was to settle a dispute over who had the rights to the slate in which part of the mountain, and subsequently to aid ventilation. However, in reality the tunnel was clearly driven by forward-thinking mine owners to enable mine explorers and cavers to complete an exciting through trip seventy years after the mines ceased producing slate. More background here.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

White Scar Cave

17th March On Saturday I joined a large group of Red Rose members for a trip down White Scar, beyond the tourist show cave bit. After squeezing into as much neoprene as we could muster (a task which looked like it was harder for some than for others; I'm assured because the neoprene had 'lost its stretch...') we stomped through the showcave and, after a quick look in Battlefield Chamber, climbed over the railings and into the continuation of the streamway.

Tourists don't go beyond this point, mainly because the water is 8 feet deep and there is no walkway above it, but after a combination of swimming and holding onto ledges on the side, we were through the deep section and into the boulder choke. There was a delay here as nobody could find the way through. After a time, Ian clambered through a hole to find somewhere to pee. Thinking he'd found the way on I followed him. I presume he kept going to get away from me and find some privacy, but eventually he popped out on the other side of the boulder choke, so I guess I can claim some credit for finding the route...sort of...?

Several hundred metres of large, fun, wet streamway followed. Eventually we reached a cascade on the right, at the top of which the passage changed character. The stream was now wide, slow and silty with a low ceiling. A series of ducks followed but, rather than being intimidating, they were great fun as there was so much space under the water and I was quite warm in my wetsuit. Eventually we found a dive line and the first sump. I poked my legs through and could feel the other side, but didn't fancy the free dive!

Back at the cascade, we had a look at some impressively long straws at the top of a hand line climb before heading out after a fine 4 hours underground.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Some Peak District Trips

10th and 11th March 2012

We joined CUCC for a Saturday trip, the plan being for Kathryn, Siobahn, Dan and I to head down Knotlow and Olly, Aiora, Anna and Nimrod to go down Hillocks. All being well, we'd meet underground and swap entrances for the return. Owing to a lack of reading abilities in our group we had a bit of a false start when we started rigging the wrong mine shaft. Kathryn was rigging, and her suspicions were aroused when the shaft had the wrong number of bolts at the top, several more rebelays than expected and a very notable lack of floor where she was expecting one 9m down. The incorrect name on the shaft lid was probably also a bit of a giveaway.

Having eventually found the correct entrance in another field (with a the namne 'Knotlow' on the lid) we rigged a nice 9m free hang follwed by another pitch to get to some scrambly horizontal caving. We then made our way towards Waterfall Chamber, with an impressive flooded shaft at the bottom and waited for the Hillocks team to appear. By now Siobahn, who was already a bit ill, was feeling even more rubbish (most of CUCC seemed to have a cold this weekend), so I headed out of Knotlow with her, whilst Kathryn and Dan waited for Olly's group to appear to complete the exchange trip. 4 hrs T/U

Sunday was rescue practice in Oxlow, 4 hrs T/U.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012


3rd February

Becka, Fleur and I had a fairly quick trip into Link Pot before the Red Rose dinner, the aim being to find the Serendipity pitches and Easy Street. We'd all been in that part of the cave before, but were all a but hazy about the route, so Fleur took Northern Caves underground with her and we managed to navigate our way through a slightly confusing maze of crawls after leaving the 'usual' route towards Mistral. Eventually, a flat out crawl led, somewhat unexpectedly, to the top of some pitches; Serendipity. Becka rigged, and we were soon down into a very pleasant walking sized streamway. We stomped all the way down as far as the sump before heading back out again. T/U 3hrs

Back at the bottom of the entrance pitch, a pile of snow at the bottom suggested that conditions above ground had changed a bit, and sure enough, after a hand numbingly cold climb up the ladder, we emerged to find a couple of inches of snow had already settled. A somewhat exciting escape from Bull Pot Farm followed in a blizzard, with ice and snow on the road, in order to make it to the dinner near Kendal, 15 miles (or 2 hours drive) away.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

A Couple of Mines

Not much caving to report of late, but a couple of mine visits.

Borrowdale Wad Mine
28th December 2011, with Kim and Kathryn.
We had originally hoped to visit Force Crag Mine a couple days earlier but were thwarted by concrete and a gate, as some work is being done to divert the water coming out of the mine. Borrowdale Wad Mine is found on the steep slopes above Seathwaite and consists of three adits at different levels, connected by shafts. We had a look round each level, and located the various shafts for a future visit with SRT kits (it would make a nice through trip). T/U 1hr

Cumberland/Wapping Mine
22nd January 2012.
Kathryn and I had a look around on a lazy Sunday. We pretty much walked straight to the entrance and both managed to miss it, before spending the best part of an hour looking elsewhere. Eventually we got underground and followed the obvious route through some largish chambers. Eventually we got to some concrete walk ways and spiral staircases - this part was a showcave in Victorian times. It was slightly eery seeing it in such a different state now. T/U 1hr

Cwmorthin Slate Mine
29th January 2012
We'd spent the weekend in Snowdonia with Richard, and after a beautiful crisp Saturday, Sunday turned out to be blizzardy and sleety. So armed with a printed survey we headed into Cwmorthin Slate Mine near Blaenau Ffestiniog. It's a ridiculously complicated maze, and the first half hour or so was spent wandering backwards and forwards, trying to get our bearings and work out where on earth we were; it's not often I go underground and genuinely feel like there is a risk of getting lost! Eventually we found an impressive set of stone steps leading down the side of a gigantic chasm. After a couple more junctions we managed to find an incline that we'd been looking for. This lead steeply downwards, past various broken carts. Every so often there would be a side level we could explore, which usually ended in a dodgy bridge. The bottom of the incline lead to a level with a foot of water so we decided to turn round here.

We got back to the surface after about two hours underground, having seen about 5% of what was on the survey (and 0% of however much there is that isn't on the several return trips are needed - what an amazing place!). After trudging back to the car in the sleet, we headed to a cafe in Blaenau Ffestiniog where I did my best ever, but unwitting, impersonation of a welshman by asking for a pot of Lapsang Souchong, which the waitress assumed was a Welsh turn of phrase!

The steps - only the bottom third or so are seen here.

Richard and Kathryn admiring a broken cart

One of the many dodgy bridges