We’re going on a helictite hunt!

The main group of helictites.

A while ago we had a conversation with our friend Clive about some helictites in a fairly obscure passage in Ogof Fynnon Ddu that he’d photographed back in 1975 and never visited since. This seemed like the perfect opportunity for a trip with Clive, so we arranged to go to the spot with Brendan and Keith, who had been looking for them once before but failed to locate them. It also would be a first caving trip for me since I broke my arm in Daren Cilau.

As well as having an interesting destination, the trip was also a pleasantly sporting one, and proved a good test for my arm. We went in through OFD top entrance, and made our way by the usual route to the Salubrious Streamway, then down to the Junction and into Maypole Inlet. The first real tests for my arm were the climb down to the Maypole stream, and then the climb into the main streamway. The first of these proved no problem as the passage is so tight I didn’t even use my arm, and the second also passed without incident with the help of Clive’s sling.

We splashed merrily up the main streamway and past second oxbow to find the next challenge for my arm – a drop through a hole in the floor back into the stream that gave my shoulder a good stretch. From there we quickly reached Pendulum Passage, where we left the stream.

Pendulum Passage is rather horrible, with a series of very loose looking chokes, one of which appeared unpassable until Brendan pointed out a dark void high above us. This was followed by an awkward climb back down that we put a ladder on. We shortly reached some helictites that would have been rather lovely, but were mud covered. They looked fantastic – as if a strong wind had blown along the passage and stretched them all out in one direction. Finally, after another awkward scramble through yet another choke, we found a lovely alcove with spectacular helictites. The odd thing was, they weren’t the ones Clive had photographed all those years before. While Clive, with the help of Rachel and I, photographed those, Brendan and Keith continued exploring and found the rest of the formations.

The main group of helictites.
The main group of helictites.

We spent about an hour photographing the helictites, one of which was growing almost straight up, and must have been almost 40cm tall. Hopefully we’ve duplicated the pictures from Clive’s earlier trip so we can see what has changed in 36 years!

Keith examines the fantastic display of helictites.
Keith examines the fantastic display of helictites.

The trip back was mostly uneventful, although Rachel had a bit of trouble getting out of the main streamway, and then I had a bit of trouble getting out of the Maypole streamway. We both managed to collect some good bruises! The highlight came at the top of the corkscrew squeeze, where rachel asked about a bolt she’d spotted in the opposite wall of the chamber. Clive replied that the bolt had been placed on the 16th of September, 1967 during the first exploration of that part of the cave, and he was there when it was installed!

All in all, this was an interesting and fun trip. My arm held up fine, although I was a bit slow in places, mostly due to being tentative, rather than getting stuck. Hopefully our regular schedule of caving will resume shortly.

Close up of the helictites and straws. I would have shaved if I'd known Brendan was going to take such a close shot!
Close up of the helictites and straws. I would have shaved if I'd known Brendan was going to take such a close shot!

5 thoughts on “We’re going on a helictite hunt!”

  1. Brendan’s pix or Clive’s? Has Clive switched to digital? Either way they are great! 😀

    Hmm, it’d be interesting to know if there is anything discernibly different in Clive’s pix separated by 36 years! I guess the only factor that could be observed over such a short period, in cave terms, is any human affects?

    [BTW, glad to see the Google mapping getting exercised. 😉 ]

  2. Those are Brendan’s. We’re awaiting Clive’s as he is still using film.

    I’m hoping there will be an interesting contrast in the speed of growth of the straws in comparison with the helictites.

    I so would have plotted the route we took through the cave if you’d given us the capability! 😉

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