A trip into Ogof Daren Cilau had been on the cards for a long time. Over the years we’ve heard many a tale about the 517 m long, excruciating entrance crawl that negates the need for a locked gate. So when Keith and Brendan suggested a Daren through-trip going in through the entrance crawl and out through Price’s Dig, it seemed like the perfect plan, given that the much-feared entrance crawl would only have to be conquered once.
I didn’t question why people still bothered going through the entrance crawl when there was a perfectly good alternative entrance, or why Brendan said that we should meet 1 hour earlier than usual. I was absolutely convinced that this would be a nice, easy, relaxed, 5-6 hour Sunday trip.
I was wrong.
We met for a fine breakfast at Luigi’s in Abergavenny before heading out to Llangattock and to the Chelsea Caving Club Hut, from where our adventure began. After a short walk we located the entrance to Daren and entered the long, arduous entrance crawl. Almost immediately we were introduced to character of the cave; low and narrow. For the next 90 minutes we passed through the 517 m of passage, which sometimes involved flat-out thrutching through cold water and at best, crawling over rough rocks on the passage floor. Two-thirds of the way through we entered a slightly larger section, where a “Caution Runners” sign was located. This was not a place for running! Soon after we entered the calcite squeezes, which were slightly narrower and slightly more awkward, but meant that we were almost through the entrance series.
After more passage we eventually arrived at the ‘Large Chamber Nowhere near the Entrance’ where the cave log book is located. Indeed, it was nowhere near the entrance. After a few amusing video and photo stops we made our way to ‘White Company’ where the passage is decorated with pretty stals and helictites. We spent ages here taking photographs and video, but eventually decided that we had to press on and soon enough we were in Urchin Oxbow where many Urchin gypsum formations are located. After more photos and video we again headed on to our next stop which was The Antlers … they looked a lot less like antlers than I had expected, but still pretty nice.
After a short monologue by Keith, we were on our way to find the way out via Price’s Dig. Keith and Brendan had previously entered the cave through Price’s dig, but had never quite got to The Antlers, so this intermediate section required a bit of route-finding. It was quite an amusing journey in a largish passage (called Antler Passage) that was filled periodically with boulders which required climbing through or over. This passage went on forever, before reaching a boulder choke, and finally exiting into Busman’s Holiday… which was somewhat easier going. After another hour or so we eventually reached the start of Price’s Dig and soon enough we were out. I now understand why people do not use the Price’s Dig entrance instead of the Daren entrance crawl. It is a long trek into the cave via this route and not necessarily easier.
The 5-6 hour Sunday trip that I was expecting had turned into an 8 hour adventure. It was a great trip. The entrance series was great fun, the formations very pretty and the way out made the curry in Abergavenny taste particularly good.
I have added three of Brendan’s photos from the trip. The first is quite amusing and the second two are absolutely stunning! Brendan is able to make any cave setting look more warm and comfortable than lying on the fat sac under an alpaca blanket.
And now the video courtesy of Keith…