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.

Remind you of anything...?
I had assumed that it would only be a few minutes of caving from here to War of the Worlds, but it turned into a bit of a slog. We managed to find the route round a boulder choke choke into The Black Run, and soon after found the squirm down into Lost in Space. A combination of stooping and crawling, Lost in Space wasn't as big as the name suggests, but eventually we emerged into a huge chamber with impressive flowstone walls, the Reactor.

After a few minutes of boulder hopping around The Reactor we located the passage on towards War of the Worlds (it was in roughly the spot where I'd first looked, at which point I'd confidently declared, 'It's definitely not this way.'). Soon afterwards, we reached the T junction with the north and south branches of War of the Worlds. We wandered down both branches, the southern passage being particularly huge. I say 'wandered', but really I mean 'teetered from wobbly boulder to wobbly boulder'. I'd read that somewhere round here were formations, but I couldn't remember where, and began to feel guilty about forgetting the description as we looked in several side passages to no avail. Finally, just as we were resigned to failure, we found our target, Sendero Luminoso, and spent some time admiring and photographing the urchins and helictites, including the most rudely shaped stalagmite I have ever seen. 

With only a few wrong turns, we managed to undo our inward route pretty efficiently. My legs, which had been gently poaching in my plastic oversuit for much of the day, felt like they were done; and my knee, injured after falling off my bike the previous week, was complaining about the crawls. I think Nial mistook my whimpers for a little girl. Emma, meanwhile, was singing about how much she loved caving.

After 8 hours underground, a celebratory pint was quaffed at the Lamb and Fox in the evening sun. The following day, stiff shoulders and aching legs were refreshed by a swim in the river at Crickhowell, and then made to ache again by the walk back up the hill to Whitewalls. I made my way home to find the surveys and descriptions sitting on the printer.

Urchins closeup
Urchins with Nial for Scale

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