Monday, 16 December 2013

Surveying in Boxhead Pot

We had originally planned on a trip to the Eastern Front, Becka and co.'s new section found recently in Large Pot, to help Jeff take some photos. But after a wet week, and more rain forecast for later on Saturday the trip was a non-starter.

As Friday night at Bull Pot Farm wore on and started to look worryingly like Saturday morning, Becka suggested a trip from Boxhead Pot to Notts II. There were some odd bits of surveying she wanted to finish off around the bottom of Boxhead. The prospect of a first trip to Boxhead and through the new connection to Notts II was too good to turn down so somehow I agreed to be ready to go to Leck Fell for a 9am start. It was now approaching 2 am and the beer Holly and Noel had got for their party was really very more-ish indeed... I suspected I might regret this in the morning. Some vintage snoring and sleep-talking in the bunk room later was not particularly conducive to a restorative night's sleep either...

Monday, 4 November 2013

Bonfire Night Caving

2nd and 3rd November 2013
It was a scene from a war film. Clouds of smoke billowed around us. We choked on the acrid smell of gunpowder, as we cowered from the rockets screaming overhead, temporarily illuminating the murky gloom as they exploded close by. Yes, it was another typical bonfire night at Bull Pot Farm, and yes I'm probably exaggerating a bit.
Over the din of the outdoor-fireworks-inside, we managed to establish that the weather forecast was terrible, and that our planned trip from Top Sink to Link Pot should probably morph into a trip from County Pot to Lancaster Hole, avoiding any potentially dangerous wet bits. So on a chilly Saturday morning (it would be warmer underground than above for the fist time in months) Tony, Kathryn, Emma, Nial, Aiora, Kayla and I dropped into County Pot. The climb up to Poetic Justice was as entertaining as ever, and soon we found ourselves in the Main Drain at Eureka Junction, where the water was still very low - presumably the rain hadn't arrived yet.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Late Summer Tomfoolery

21/09/2013 - King Pot

Emma, Tom and I spent a misty Autumn day bottomming King Pot. With vague intentions to look at the Middle Sump Bypass and the Grasshopper Series, we'd packed neoprene hoods. We made fairly serene progress through the early obstacles, including the T-slot. As expected, we found that since our last trip there the whole of the cave is now p-hangered, which sped things up a bit.
As we descended and entered some of the damper crawls in the lower part of the cave (which is otherwise large, impressive and very pretty), resolve weakened and I found myself hoping that it would be too wet for the Grasshopper Series. It probably wasn't - but I was! The 1 inch airspace over the flat out crawl was enough to deter all of us. After looking at the impressive sumps that bookend the East Kingsdale Master Cave, we started the trip out, the official line being, 'we really wanted to go through the horrible ducks, but thought it was too wet'.

Monday, 2 September 2013

An Icelandic Adventure

Having run out of frozen meals, Kathryn and I decided to go to Iceland. Our main objective was the Laugavegur trail, which runs from the hot springs of Landmannalaugar to the glacial valley of Þórsmörk, with an optional extra day or two over the Fimmvörðuháls pass to Skógar. The route would take us past the  Eyjafjallajökull glacier, the scene of the 2010 eruption which disrupted flights across Europe. When it comes to words I am physically unable to pronounce, Icelandic is rivalled only by Welsh. Try saying Eyjafjallajökull three times backwards as fast as you can...
The geothermal pool at Landmannalaugar

Monday, 12 August 2013

An Ogof Ffynnon Ddu Trip


I'd only ever done through trips in OFD in the upstream direction, so it would be interesting to see how hard the route-finding for our planned downstream (OFD Top to OFD 1) trip would be today.

Kathryn, Anya, Jess, Serena, Adrian, Olly and I slogged up to the top entrance, half of us poaching, trussed up in neoprene and PVC oversuits. Some highly sweaty caving brought us to the very shallow Salubrious streamway and a certain amount of relief. Soon enough we were at the top of Maypole Inlet. I was last down the climb into inlet, and without a rope it was more slithery than I remembered. The inlet itself wasn't carrying much water, and we followed it down into the main streamway which was also low.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Alpine Adventures

Around this time last year Kathryn and I headed to the Ecrins for our first attempt at conquering some alpine mountains. We had an lovely time, although things didn't quite go entirely to plan: I dropped my camera off a via ferrata, and we failed to make it up any summits due to a combination of failing to acclimatise properly and picking some peaks that were beyond us. My grand plan of a romantic mountain-top proposal was hastily rearranged into popping the question on a col.
Looking across to the summit of the Allalinhorn

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Caving in a Washing Machine

15/06/13 An aborted trip down Roaring Hole

Wookey, Kathryn and I, joined by Jeremy and Chris, were following a team of Durham cavers into Roaring Hole, a cave notable for its damp boulder chokes. The plan was for us to loiter in Inglesport for an hour or so then head down the cave in Chapel-le-Dale and derig their ropes. We executed the first part of the plan exceptionally well.
As we walked towards the cave we met a gaggle of familiar but cleaner than usual-looking, yellow-suited cavers coming the other way. Durham had aborted below the second choke because it was too wet. After a couple of days of unsettled weather it seemed we had made a poor choice of cave.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

War of the Worlds, Ogof Draenen

Nial and Emma in War of the Worlds
With the prospect of a long trip to Draenen at the weekend, I had spent some time on Friday printing out various bits of description and surveys to several potential locations in the cave. I had then cleverly forgotten to pack them before driving down to South Wales.

Emma, Nial and I settled on a trip to War of the Worlds, a huge passage in the south of the cave, with some formations nearby. Armed with one paragraph of useful text, a photo of the survey and a vague recollection that I'd read that "it's somewhere a bit beyond Snowball Passage", we reluctantly left behind a rare sunny day above Abergavenny and squirmed our way through the somewhat miserable entrance series. A little while later we stripped off the tops of our oversuits at the first water stop (in Lamb and Fox Chamber) and made our sweaty way through the maze of dry tunnels to Snowball Passage.

Monday, 22 April 2013

A Rare Weekend on Mendip

Crystals in Neverland, Upper Flood Swallet
It had been been four years since I last went caving in the Mendips, and now I'm wondering why I left it so long! That trip in 2009 included a visit to recent discoveries in Upper Flood Swallet. However, the prettiest section, Neverland, was closed off as it was deemed too fragile to cope with any caver traffic. Since then, a bypass has been dug, which enables access to Neverland with less risk to the formations. When Alex and Jess sorted out a trip there, with Mike the Animal leading, in return for us doing a bit of digging, I jumped at the chance to join them.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Tales of an Incompetent Cross Country Skier in Norway

Our home for the week
Until last week Kathryn and I had never been skiing. So when the opportunity to go to Anthony and Julia's hut in Norway arose, we embraced it with the kind of wanton enthusiasm typical of people who have absolutely no idea what they are letting themselves in for. Afterall, if couldn't be that different from sledging, right?

So it was that we found ourselves in a quaint wooden hut in the Hallingdal region, one week in late March. It was -25oC outside, and the snow was a metre deep. But huddled round the stove, by candlelight, we were very cosy indeed.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Random Furtlings in Ogof Draenen


Some of the best caving trips are the ones where you don't have a particular objective, just a vague idea of somewhere to go; perhaps with a bit of a survey or a description printed out. Any side passage can be worth visiting, and you just don't know what you will find. The results can be very satisfying. This was one such trip.
An early start, to meet Olaf and Chris who had the cave key, saw us getting changed in thick fog near the Lamb and Fox at 9am. It is always amusing to witness a German correcting the grammar of an English speaking native! Emma, Olaf and Chris disappeared off ahead of us to go digging, leaving Kathryn, Adrian, Sam, Jess and I to our trip.

Monday, 11 February 2013

A Non-Caving Trip

Sunday's caving plans were thwarted by our own laziness, so I thought I'd write about Saturday's non-caving trip to Snowdonia instead, since it was a 'minor epic'. Kathryn and I planned on practicing our winter skills by climbing Hidden Gully, on Glyder Fawr (we'd done a course last year and were keen to take things a bit further).

It's a fair old drive across to Snowdonia for us. When we pulled up in a layby near Ogwen Cottage, the persistent drizzle and low cloud base suggested it might be a wasted trip, but we'd come all this way so had to at least go for a walk. Donning coats and overtrousers, we trudged up to Llyn Idwal, our spirits about as foul as the weather. The occasional brief breaks in the cloud revealed mountain slopes stripped bare of snow by the thaw. We couldn't yet see our destination, Cwm Cneifon, but we feared we were a day too late for winter.

Monday, 14 January 2013

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe


After a Christmas full of excess, I'd built up a considerable paunch that needed removing. Well, that's a bit of an exagerration, but nevertheless it seemed like a good time of the year for a long trip to Daren Cilau with Emma and Tom. We were heading to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe - a campsite towards the further reaches of the cave (although this was only a day trip). Our plan was to take photos of the 'Blue Greenies', a set of formations which, I'd been led to believe, were not white.

Actually, this photo is the Restaurant at the End of the
Universe, not the Hard Rock Cafe.
We left behind a cold, damp morning at around 11am and crawled into Daren's cold, damp entrance series. Forty-odd minutes of squalour later, we were through. Familiar landmarks came thick and fast now, as we made good progress through the cave; Jigsaw Passage, the Big Chamber, the ladder and then boulder hopping in the Time Machine and Bonsai Streamway. After three hours or so underground we had now made it to the Hard Rock Cafe - the first campsite in the cave. I tucked into my carefully protected quiche and scotch eggs, and Emma and Tom started on the mounds of flapjack they'd brought with them.

Rock Steady Cruise was next: a series of pleasant sandy passages, separated by short crawls which filled my wellies with sand (I need bigger calf muscles, or slimmer wellies...). This was now pretty much the furthest I'd been in the cave before. Our next obstacle was Acupuncture Passage, a series of flat out crawls over a sand floor full of stones and sharp bits, hence the name. For the most part this was just plain tedious - the crawls were far too long. However, at the end it was also a little scary as a small bit of wall/ceiling had crumbled away partially blocking the passage (it looked stable now though). When it's a flat out crawl beforehand, a collapse is really not useful!