Ogof Pwll Swnd

A 6 am start on Saturday morning got us to Luigi’s at 8:30 am for a hearty (delicious) breakfast and from there we travelled west to a road in the middle of nowhere (between Llangadog and Brynamman) before parking in an isolated quarry. Brendan, Richard and I kitted up and then took a further 3 km stroll further into what can only be described as truly the middle of nowhere. There had been rumours (Caves of South Wales by Tim Stratford) that a cairn marked the spot, but it didn’t. Others had remarked on a nearby lake (what lake?). Thankfully Brendan had visited before and had the exact position stored in his GPS; so we already had a head start on many previous visitors to this cave; we’d found it!

The trip went well until about 5 m into the entrance when a large (40 x 25 x 15 cm) chunk of the passage wall fell off just behind Richard. No harm was done, but it was a nice welcome to the cave!

Chamber near the entrance

The first true obstacle was the first pitch. We rigged the ladder and lifeline and descended. The pitch is a little tricky; I’m glad that I’m not bigger! It had two sections, in the first section there were two horizontally aligned, narrow pots that were connected together. The ladder hung down the left pot, but unfortunately this one was impossibly narrow, so the descent involved climbing down a ladder which wasn’t in the same bit of cave. In the second section of the pitch, the two horizontal pots opened into space …. and that made life a lot easier!

Once down the pitch we visited the ‘Old Series’. This part of the cave had a very ‘old’ feel. The walls were covered in calcite and stals were broken everywhere. It didn’t look like it had been vandalised; the damage was more reminiscent of that caused by rock falls. The rock also appeared to be fractured in many areas; in one location a piece of flowstone a few metres wide and high had moved away from the wall by about 10 cm! We wondered whether ancient earthquakes might have been the cause of these cracks and breakages…

The best picture taking opportunities were in the Old Series. We came across this huge pot in the floor at one point. It was quite deep, but actually fairly simple to cross. Richard tried it in two ways:

Richard striding a large pot in the floor... by one method
... and then another method

Lofty Chamber was also quite pretty:

Romeo Romeo wherefore art thou Romeo?........................over here!

After around 40 mins of exploration and photo taking we headed out through the following chamber before continuing to the ‘New Series’.

In a chamber just before the end of the Old Series

In a chamber just before the end of the Old Series

The New Series turned out to be quite a sporting bit of cave. There were lots of fun passages to negotiate and these made up for the lack of scenery. The entrance to the New Series was marked by an open gate in the floor, which led down an awkward tube and ended at the top of a muddy bank leading to the second ladder pitch. This pitch was kinder than the first, but was still quite tight and required a side step halfway. From here we descended through another awkward tube which ended in two perfectly circular 40 cm diameter holes. From here there was a sandy passage crawl which led to the third pitch, Well Pitch, which we climbed down. Our arrival at Five Ways Chamber gave us a multitude of pathways to explore. First we took a look at the Northern Series, but turned around when we arrived at a huge pot in the floor that we didn’t fancy crossing without more kit (this was not mentioned on the survey or description that we took with us!). Once back at Five Ways, we took a wet, tightish passage that curved around and emerged in Z chamber. There was a myriad of ways on from here, but we chose Lintel Passage next. We stayed here longer than expected as we got Brendan wedged into a rift by the chest. Thankfully we managed to hang a ladder from a boulder, which allowed him to take his weight with his feet and then hoist himself out.

After a short rest we continued, taking a different route down the rift, and found ourselves at Ringing Chamber. From here we considered continuing down to the Basement, but decided against it on the basis of time; we had to be back at the car by 8 pm to let our call-out (Keith) know that we were safe. Instead we had a quick explore around a few other chambers and then headed back up through the cave.

After all the de-rigging and re-packing we exited the cave at 7.30 pm, exactly 30 minutes before we had to be back at the car. It was very misty; visibility was down to around 5 m! We were pleased that Brendan had had the foresight to store the position of the cars into the GPS; we switched it on and walked as quickly as possible. With three bags of ladders and ropes and a box of flash guns and a camera box, fast was not that fast and as the time grew nearer to 8.00 pm we knew we were going to be late. Nevertheless the only thing we could do was to continue following Brendan’s trusty GPS arrow and eventually we came face to face with the descending quarry face – at the bottom of which sat the cars. We carefully walked along the quarry edge and eventually came to a way down. We arrived at the cars at 8:30. Thankfully Keith’s grandchildren had been pre-occupying him, so he wasn’t too concerned at our lateness. Phew.

An Indian curry in Abergavenny at about 10.00 was enjoyed and we made it back to Whitewalls by 11:30pm.

Sunday: I was pretty knackered from the caving, but we mustered the energy to run over Llangattock Hill to a disused, dry reservoir. From here we ran back round the side of the mountain…. a nice 1hr30-2 hr run.

A lovely weekend and almost back to our usual activity level :-). I recommend Ogof Pwll Swnd; it was certainly a collector’s item (i.e. the cave lacks an obvious destination), but the journey and its challenges were really enjoyable. If anyone fancies it, take the survey (www.herefordcavingclub.org.uk/survey_pages/Ogof Pwll Swnd ap.html) and read the only reliable description around (www.ogof.org.uk/ogof_pwll_swnd.html).

All of the fabulous photographs are courtesy of Brendan Marris.