Ogof Ffynnon Ddu, Fault Aven Series

The Fault Aven area is a series of high level passages above the First River Chamber in the main streamway of Ogof Ffynnon Ddu. This area is unique in that Pom Pom Passage is the only part of the cave to be formed on the southern side of the OFD stream-way. Here’s a video report of the trip…

Bank holiday in South Wales

We spent the Sunday and Monday of the bank holiday weekend caving in South Wales. On Sunday we met Brendan and a new Dudley recruit, Laura, at Penwyllt, the South Wales Caving Club HQ. After numerous cups of tea we kitted up and headed up to Top Entrance of OFD.

Getting ready at Penwyllt
Getting ready at Penwyllt

Our destination was The OFD Columns, which are only available for viewing on bank holidays so that damage to these fine formations is restricted. This is kind of amusing to me, because The OFD Columns are supposedly anthropogenic, i.e. they were formed as a result of lime leaching from kilns on the surface. Apparently, as a result of not being true stal, they are more delicate than normal formations… hence perhaps why they need special access arrangements. Regardless they are very pretty.

The OFD Columns and Richard (photo courtesy of Brendan Marris)
The OFD Columns and Richard (photo courtesy of Brendan Marris)
The OFD Columns and Laura (photo courtesy of Brendan Marris)
The OFD Columns and Laura (photo courtesy of Brendan Marris)
The OFD Columns and me (photo courtesy of Brendan Marris)
The OFD Columns and me (photo courtesy of Brendan Marris)

After seeing the columns we headed to Salubrious Passage and then into the Sand Crawls before making our way out for more tea and cake (madiera) :-).

On Monday morning, we met Brendan and Laura at Luigis for breakfast.

It's such a memorable place that it deserves a picture!
It’s such a memorable place that it deserves a picture!

After a great feed, we headed up to Whitewalls for tea and then got kitted up. We went into Aggy with the plan to do the Inner Circle. Part way however, we decided that we’d had too many cups of tea and hence, a trip to the Coal Cellar Passage and the Coal Cellar was perhaps a more sensible destination in order to get out at a reasonable time. When we got to Coal Cellar Passage we explored a few side passages. The first one was extremely muddy and led to a chamber which was even muddier – very sticky, knee deep mud! After extracting ourselves from here, Richard then explored the next side passage, but decided it was too horrid to continue. The final side passage we explored turned out to be the Coal Cellar itself. It was a chamber, with black boulders seemingly appearing from a hole in the chamber roof. A good destination… but no pictures. On our way back from the Coal Cellar, we noticed some tracks in the cave which looked a bit like bike tracks. Given the number of boulders around, and given the entrance series, this seemed improbable, but then Brendan found this link

There are people more crazy than us by a long way!

We returned to Whitewalls and recovered by drinking tea. I also took a few pictures around Whitewalls of some of the more amusing wall decor…

This will be amusing for those in the know :-)
This will be amusing for those in the know 🙂
...neither do we...
…neither do we…

OFD 1 to 2

Whilst someone was haunched over their PC trying to enter the inner workings of the blog, we were resting in preparation for the weekend’s adventure. Hmm … I wonder which resulted in the most fun?!

The weekend was a Chelsea Spelaeological Society meet-up at Whitewalls. We travelled down on Saturday morning and met 12 other cavers at the South Wales Caving Club. Our destination for the day was a through trip from OFD 1 to OFD 2. We have done this trip before, but it’s a spectacular streamway and well worth a repeat visit. In addition, it was extra nice knowing that SWCC now own seven acres of land including the entrance to Ogof Ffynnon Ddu I! Well done SWCC!

The weather had been rather wet and we were expecting fairly high flows in the streamway, so a decision was made to wear wetsuits under oversuits. This turned out to be a really bad idea! The water levels were slightly higher than when we were there last time, but not excessively so, and the only thing that was achieved by wearing a wetsuit was being extremely hot and not being able to move very easily at all. At one point I was scooping water into my wetsuit just to cool down!

The trip went as planned (except for the thunderstorms in our wetsuits) and we had a great time negotiating the various climbs, crawls and deep pots in the floor. Our photographer wasn’t with us, so here’s some pictures from our last trip in the OFD streamway in October 2007 (thanks Brendan)!

Rachel in the OFD Streamway
Richard in the OFD streamway

On Sunday we were pretty tired from the wetsuit-induced exertion and it was also club hut maintenance day, so Richard and I spent the day cleaning walls, moving rocks and making tea. We did manage a walk later in the day and found this signpost!

Richard by the confusing signpost

We’re going on a helictite hunt!

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!

Up on Saturday, down on Sunday

After a trip down Peak Cavern was cancelled, we decided to head to South Wales hoping to do some running and gatecrash Brendan and Keith on a caving trip. Saturday therefore found us getting a bit of exercise (in preparation for the 21 mile, 4500 feet, fell race that I entered Richard and I for) in the Welsh mountains. We repeated a run we did a while back up Pen-y-Fan as last time we saw absolutely nothing due to the atrocious weather. This time the weather was cloudy, but allowed us, at times, to see the tremendous scenery. There was also loads of snow on the tops which made it particularly fun. Unfortunately the camera was in the car.

Relaxing by the stals

The Bees Knees
The Bees Knees

p1253212

Sunday’s plan was to head down DYO, however the rain that lashed our tent on Saturday night ensured that this wasn’t to be. Instead Keith and Brendan took us into OFD – along the Escape Route to the streamway and back. The journey was fabulous, my favourite bit perhaps was this bizarre bit of passage about 50 cm high and very very wide. The only sensible way of getting through it was to roll over and over, back, belly, back, belly until reaching the other side. This was extremely effective, but unfortunately left one rather dizzy and disorientated – not what you need in a cave! At the terminus of the trip, Brendan and Keith expertly located a chamber that they had tried to find a couple of times before. It was named “Starlight Chamber” and although there were a few flickery sparkles on the roof, it’s main feature was it’s size, which was quite grand. The way back was surprisingly rapid and before long we were drinking tea in the South Wales Caving Club hut.

OFD I to OFD II

A through trip from Ogof Ffynnon Ddu I to OFD II was planned with Brendan (DCC), Richard and I. In the end a metallurgy professor from Oxford also joined the trip. A really fabulous trip it was. We started off at the bottom of the hill and went through various places, some of which I can remember the names of … including …Diver’s pitch, the confluence, the letterbox, the Marble Showers Series, Maypole Inlet, Gnome passage and the Brickyard (possibly not in this order). Some of these places were particularly spectacular and memorable. The first Streamway was rather cool. The limestone in OFD is very dark (hence it’s name meaning “The cave of the black spring”), however, in this section of the streamway, lay a white line of rock throughout the entire passage which was almost like a white line on the road. The pools in the streamway in this area were crossed via the use of a scafolding pole across the pool; which we were very grateful of taking into account that we were still dry at that point. Then we had the letter box … this was a location where the cave continued into a slot about 40 cm high and 1.5 m long, situated halfway up a cliff .. it was amusing to see Brendan’s legs sticking out! Possibly the most amusing section was in one of the latter streamways where there were many pools to cross, possibly deeper than standing depth. We attacked these in different ways. The first approach was just to jump, the second approach was to bridge with both legs apart, the third approach was to bridge with arms one side and legs the other side, the fourth approach was to jump in as far as possible to get near to the other side, the fifth approach was to swing cautiously around whatever hand holds one could find. Richard strolled up to one particularly awkward pool … we were all interested to see how he would do it, so the three of us stood there and watched. He was not completely wet through at this point, so there was some incentive to keep dry; which he did. However after making the tricky manouvre, he took a few steps forward to join us and missed another large pot hole in the floor and went up to his neck! A very funny moment! Maypole Inlet was another sight not to be missed, the black rock had a limey covering in some areas that was bright white; a real contrast to the rest of the cave. Finally, we saw the trident and the judge. The trident is a huge amber coloured stalagtite (the biggest I’ve seen – 5 m long) and the judge is a wide bottomed stalagmite; less impressive in itself, but in a beautiful setting.

A fab trip! Apologies for the lack of picture; Colin with his trusty camera wasn’t present!