News: Chaldon Quarries, Surrey – Radiocarbon Dating Results

News: Chaldon Quarries, Surrey – Radiocarbon Dating Results

In January 2018, we reported that the Wealden Cave and Mine Society had been awarded the opportunity to get free radiocarbon dating work performed on archaeological samples from the Reigate area. By the end of March, the results were available, but disappointingly, two of the three samples submitted did not contain sufficient carbon to provide…

News: Cave Scientist Gina Moseley Receives €1.2 Million Research Prize

News: Cave Scientist Gina Moseley Receives €1.2 Million Research Prize

Dr Gina Moseley from the Innsbruck Quaternary Research Group will receive one of this year’s prestigious Austrian Science Foundation (FWF) START prizes. The START programme is an Austrian initiative to support and strengthen outstanding research projects in science and humanities. Gina, a member of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society and current Symposium Lecture Secretary…

Subterranea Britannica: Budapest Weekend 12th and 13th May, 2018

Subterranea Britannica: Budapest Weekend 12th and 13th May, 2018

Subterranea Britannica group enters the Kőbánya cellar system, 35 kilometres of underground quarry. Photo: Peter Burgess I was once an active member of Subterranea Britannica, usually abbreviated to “Sub Brit”. Its quirky interest in man-made and man-used subterranean space appealed to me, and my own interests in old mine and quarry workings fitted in well….

Wealden Cave and Mine Society Wins Radiocarbon Dating Award

Wealden Cave and Mine Society Wins Radiocarbon Dating Award

In the summer of 2017, I was made aware of a scheme to encourage community archaeological groups to submit material for radiocarbon dating. The scheme is known as the Community Archaeology Radiocarbon Dating (CARD) Fund, and there is a simple online application process for suggesting suitable items for dating. The Wealden Cave and Mine Society…

News: Bristol Students Surveying in Co. Clare

News: Bristol Students Surveying in Co. Clare

At the beginning of the summer break of 2017, six members of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society (UBSS) travelled to County Clare on our annual Ireland expedition. Our main objective was to continue the re-surveying of the Coolagh River cave which was started last year. We also had the secondary objective of continuing survey…

Chunky and Caver Keith Wow The Wessex

Chunky and Caver Keith Wow The Wessex

After dinner speakers R us

Only 9 days before the event Les Williams contacted Mark and asked if he was free on 21st October as he needed an after dinner speaker for the 83rd Wessex Cave Club Annual Dinner. Having not been able to find a suitable excuse Mark then contacted me and asked if I would be one half of a double act.

The slot was scheduled to last for 15 to 20 minutes. Mark’s idea was basically for us to trade insults between short compilations of Caver Keith videos. It seemed a half decent idea so for the next 8 days we honed the script and assembled the videos. However neither of us were really confident that it would work with a large unfamiliar audience of about 90 people.

Les said that he could provide a large screen, projector, amplifier and speakers as the Hidden Earth equipment is held in the Wessex stores. All we had to provide was ourselves and a laptop loaded with the presentation and videos.

What could possibly go wrong?

Suitably suited and booted we arrived early at the venue but had to run across the carpark through a cloudburst courtesy of storm Brian. The equipment was already in place so we fired up the laptop, connected the video cable and plugged in the amplifier. The projector worked fine but the audio stubbornly refused to work. With the clock ticking relentlessly to the start of the meal it seemed that our ‘well-rehearsed’ presentation was doomed to failure. With only minutes to spare we diagnosed the problem. The 3.5mm jack plug was not going into the socket on the laptop far enough to make contact and there wasn’t a spare lead! Fortunately I had bought a bluetooth speaker so we connected it up and placed a microphone in front of it. The sound wasn’t perfect but it looked like the show was back on. Phew!

Pre-show Nerves

When I said ‘well-rehearsed’ presentation I may have been slightly embroidering the truth. Cobbled together might have been a more accurate description. During the meal we found out that over the years the great and the good of the caving world had addressed this long established club. The names that every ever knows – The Clive Westlakes, The Martin Farrs, The Sid Perous, The Gavin Newmans and alike, and who are we? Did anyone know us from Adam? To emphasise the point the person to Mark’s right during the meal said, “Who is Caver Keith?” – enough said. So to say that we were a little nervous would be an understatement.

At the end of the meal were a number of toasts and then it was down to us.

The Presentation

Mark started with, “During the history of the Wessex Cave Club we understand that you have been addressed by all of the big names in caving.”

I replied, “But unfortunately tonight we’ve got us.” It got a small titter from a couple of the audience.

We then played the Potholer Sketch. It’s one of my favourite videos and I know that Mark rates it highly too. The odd smile played on a few faces but there were no laughs. It wasn’t going well!!!

I then said, “I was introduced to Mark about 8 years ago. I can remember the day vividly. He walked into the windmill like he owned the place and my first impressions were … “. I left a suitable pause and continued with, “What a fat bastard.” The place erupted with laughter. Perhaps we were going to be able to pull it off after all.

The exchange of insults continued with Mark slagging off my videos and me slagging off his acting ability. We then played a compilation of video clips entitled “Nah … He Can’t Act” showcasing Mark’s acting, starting with the famous Corset video and concluding with the title, A Star Is Born. Having broken the ice with my ‘Fat Bastard’ remark the bonhomie from the audience continued.

After another exchange of insults we played the third and final video clip compilation entitled “Highlights from the Video Vault” which featured humorous clips of both of us, including Brendan being blown up on the firing range, me stuck in the Lobster Pot, my return to caving following my accident and crashing my drone down Eldon Hole. This elicited laughs in all the right places.

The conclusion revolved around Mark suggesting that it was about time I gave up making videos and me storming off saying that if that was his attitude I was off to find my next ‘big star’ and shouting, “Les, Les come and be in my videos.”

We did get applause, thanks and some very nice comments prompting Mark to post on Facebook, “After dinner presentation with Keith Edwards done and we didn’t get lynched or nuffink!”

Would we do it again? Possibly if our egos were massaged enough.

Mud, Water and Zombies…

Mud, Water and Zombies…

Team: Gian Ameri, Stuart Bennett, Derek Cousins, Duncan Hornby, Kevin Munn, Pam Munn, Phill Thomas, Morgan Specht, Helen Stewart, Claire Vivian, Jo White, Tarquin Wilton-Jones

Dates: 14th -15th October 2017


Saturday

Staying at the TSG in Castleton is extremely convenient. Not only are you within walking distance of the great Peak Cavern, but you are also incredibly close to a large number of pubs and eating out options. The downside is the lack of parking. But the feel of being literally right in the centre of the town is great!

Saturday began with rough plans being made of trips into Peak Cavern.

Last minute preparations.

Almost Ready, getting changed at the TSG “chapel”.


We decided on 2 groups, one which would go and have a look at the fantastic Main Streamway and Lake Passage including Buxton Water, Far and Ink sumps and the other team would do a slightly longer trip including the main stream, the Galena Circuit and a visit to Moss Chamber. Some of us had been to Peak before, but none had visited Moss Chamber or done the Galena round trip
.

The two teams at the entrance of Peak Cavern.

The two teams at the Treasury Passage junction.

A little further on is Surprise View, a simple fixed ladder leading down to the Main Stream way, at this point the groups went their separate ways and only bumped into each other once.

The photos below are a mixture of each group’s adventures taken by various people.

Claire in the Tube (photo by Morgan).

Duncan at the Lake Sump with a multitude of steel beams, scaffolding bars, and divers tanks! (photo by Morgan).
Tarquin puzzling over the many water pipes in the Main Stream inlet passage.

One group visited Moss Chamber, an hours diversion off the Upper Gallery passage, mostly hands and knees crawling, a squeeze through an eye hole and a final refreshing dunk in water right at the end. This chamber is famous for where an accident lead to the body of Neil Moss, being cemented into a too tight rift that he had become trapped in. Despite the sombre feel to this location it also has some of the nicest flowstone formations in the system.

Claire in Moss chamber.

Different angle (by Morgan).
Derek at the Far Sump.

Derek in the Main Stream way.

Helen in ‘The Tube’.
Duncan passing under the low arch at the Muddy Ducks (on the way out).

We all had to be out before 4:30pm as the show cave was running some sort of spooky tour in the evening. The show cave had some rather amusing ghosts and ghouls in odd locations…

Claire admiring a formation in the ceiling…

In the evening Jo White and Stuart Bennett joined us for some pub grub, on the Sunday Jo went to a BCRA meeting and Stuart joined the P8 trip.


Sunday

Due to time constraints the group split into two teams: one for P8, the other for Giant’s Hole.

P8

Derek had previously visited P8 some years ago and had enough equipment to descend P8 on ladders. Neither Claire, Duncan, Helen or Stuart had visited P8 before and with limited time we opted for P8. The entrance is a sinkhole taking a small stream and we were soaked from the moment we entered!

The team at the entrance of P8.

P8 has a Yorkshire pot feel to it as we followed the stream to the first pitch. With the ladder rigged we got a proper soaking as we descended! The second pitch was much nicer as the ladder was out of the waterfall.

Helen descending the second pitch and this was the dry one!

Stuart showed off by finding an alternative route down which he free climbed and avoided any soaking!

We then explored downstream and reached a sump after a flat out crawl in a pebble bed. Derek thought there was more to the system so we had not found the other sump which is as far as non-divers can go. Unfortunately time was against us so we decided to exit the system.

So there is definitely more to see and if tackled as an SRT trip I suspect much drier! The topo guide that was lying around at the TSG hut indicates there are several alternative high level routes that can be followed to avoid a soaking.

Giant’s Hole- The Round Trip: Tarquin, Gian, and Morgan

All photos in this section by Morgan

We found the description of the guide book more than a little tricky to decipher. So we sought advice from several TSG members and this was the sketch of the round trip in Giants they came up with!

The sketch for Giants Hole.

What an easy start to the trip, less than 10 minutes drive from TSG and a five minute walk to the entrance. £5 per person though!

Gian and Tarquin at the entrance of Giants Hole.
There are some spectacular spaces in Giant’s- this is Tarquin looking up into Boss Aven.

The first obstacle is Garlands Pot a 9m pitch which leads immediately into the 400m long Crab walk a very a meandering and constricted rift.

Gian on his first ladder descent using his harness – which he rightly points out is far safer than wearing a belt.
Morgan with rock on both sides. It gets even tighter at the Vice, a restriction in the Crab Walk.
Occasionally the Crab Walk opens up – Gian patiently posed for me in this “S” bend.
The Round Trip offers a good variety of sporting challenges. There are a few tricky climbs in the upper series.

After the Poached Egg junction you eventually arrive at the Giants windpipe. For those who like crawling on your stomach, through water, this is your place to be! The sign is a bit intimidating but it’s alright. There is a 20 foot wet section. When we went through the water was not too high, if you get your head on the right angle you can still breath with a wet cheek and chin!

Entrance to Giants Windpipe.

After the pipe you can traverse above the Crab Walk. We chose to go beyond the fixed abseil ring (as there was no rope), go through a thrutchy calcite squeeze, and over some wider section of rift passage, eventually descending back to the lower route just before reaching Garland’s.

Gian pictured carefully moving along the top of the rift.

We climbed back up the ladder at Garland’s Pot, packed up and started to exit the cave. Tarquin climbed up to explore the “Old Upper Cave” on the way out. I decided not to join him as it did require negotiating more tight meandering passages while ascending. He thought it was well worth it.

All in all a fantastic trip. Sporting, wet, clean (unlike Peak Cavern!) and took a bit less than 4 hours!

Hidden Earth 2017

Hidden Earth 2017

The weather wasn’t first class, but the atmosphere and talks were. For those of you yet to visit it, Hidden Earth is an annual conference on caving. Whilst this might sound boring, it isn’t in the least. The talks range from expedition reports, to regional round-ups and videos alongside a caver-run bar, stomp and a caving and SRT obstacle course. In short, it means you can cave around the world from your seat in the auditorium and gain a good idea of where you would like to visit. Fantastic! You also get to meet up with cavers from all over the UK. Hidden Earth is always ably organised by Les and Wendy Williams along with a whole host of helpers from Mendip and other caving clubs across the UK. The conference venue alternates between being in the North and the South. This year it was the turn of the South and Hidden Earth was in Churchill.

We camped on the sports field of the school. It is always interesting to wake up on Saturday morning in a sea of tents in Mendip and then head through a throng of people to listen to a talk on a distant corner of the world such as Mexico, Mulu, the Philippines, Meghalaya or Australia. It’s great. I love it.  

The campsite at Churchill Academy

SWCC was particularly well-represented there this year. There were plenty of us attending to listen to talks and meet up with friends (nice to see Barbara and Alan at their first HE). But there were also many members with a more deep involvement who helped with the organisation, gave talks, or entered the competitions.

The trade and exhibition hall.
Antonia and Claire on the SWCC club stand

 Jo White gave a talk on the Yorkshire Dales Cave Monitoring Project to an attentive audience.

Jo giving her talk to a packed room

We also had plenty of competition entrants. Arwen had 2 entries in the cartoon competition and received a merit for one of those.

Arwen with her winning cartoon – she was awarded a merit.

Jess Burkey won the cartoon competition with her poster on the joys of being a cave model.

Jess’ winning entry in the cartoon competition
Jo entered the photo competition for the first time with several photos, including a portfolio of Dachstein ones. It was the photo of a delicate ice formation which won her the prize for best newcomer.
Jo’s entries in to the photo competition; including her winning ice formation one

And then there was the video salon which was co-ordinated by Andy and Antonia Freem. This year’s winning entry was Keith Edwards’ Opening AV presentation, which you can watch here:

Not forgetting Jo White’s excellent performance in the SRT events in the SpeleoOlympics. Where she was the fastest lady on the SRT obstacle course and also earned the prize for the best woman in the SRT competitions. Well done everyone!

Don’t forget to join us there next year!

Hidden Earth Photo Winners

Hidden Earth Photo Winners

With tough competition from many excellent photos it was pleasing to see Mark Burkey, Jo White and Duncan Hornby win awards across various categories in the Hidden Earth 2017 photo competitions, here they are!

Category: winner of colour shot and delegate vote print, © Mark Burkey, 2017
Category: winner of monochrome print, © Mark Burkey, 2017
Category: winner of best newcomer print, © Jo White, 2017
Category: merit digital photo, © Duncan Hornby, 2017

A special mention goes to Mark Burkey who was awarded the prestigious Giles Barker award, which is the 2nd year in a row this has been won by the SWCC!
The Giles Barker award


So get snapping!

Earby Pothole Club on bikes for charity!

Earby Pothole Club on bikes for charity!

September 30th will see members of the Earby Pothole Club joining friends to raise money for the Preston based Specialist Mobility Rehabilation Centre (SMRC) in a ride that starts in Preston, stopping overnight in Clapham in Yorkshire before returning the following day. SMRC is part of Lancashire NHS and donations will go to a trust…

Walking and trampolines

Walking and trampolines

19-20 August 2017 Team: Toby Dryden, Duncan Hornby, Barbara Lane and Claire Vivian A super fast journey up to North Wales by Toby, Barbara and Claire directly contrasted with the 6 hour epic drive had by Duncan. Nevertheless, we were all together to enjoy food and a pint on Friday evening. We stayed at the…

Caves in an Ancient Land – 17th ICS Conference, Australia

Caves in an Ancient Land – 17th ICS Conference, Australia

It was never going to be cheap, but it sure was a lot of fun! Two members of SWCC (Claire Vivian and Duncan Hornby) headed to Australia in July for the 17th ICS conference. We also attended the pre- and post- conference excursions (i.e. 2 weeks of caving with local cavers!). Our first stop was Margaret River, south of Perth.

Margaret River pre-conference excursion


The caves are hot in Western Australia and get hotter as you go further in! Lightweight overalls a must, often stripping down to just a t-shirt. Fortunately caving is relatively easy with few technical aspects.


The Margaret River pre-conference excursion team.

We visited 7 caves during the Margaret River excursion, with the jewel in the crown being Easter Cave; incredible formations from start to end and we were only allowed to see half of the cave! Below are a few photos that came out best and don’t do justice to the sheer number of delicate and impressive formations.


Helictites, Easter Cave
The Question (which is: Does the formation touch the roof or not). Photo: Tim Moulds

The Lemon, Easter Cave Photo: Tim Moulds

The Epstein Formation, Easter Cave.
Claire at the Helictite Table, Easter cave.
You have to be careful passing through Easter Cave as almost all of the formations are within touching distance

Best way to describe Easter cave, is get all of the UK’s finest formations and line them up, that is just the entrance series to Easter cave… Seriously it’s that well decorated!

Yet, not to be totally overshadowed were Strong’s and Crystal Cave. Whilst not as profusely decorated as Easter, they also contained some magnificent formations.


Duncan wearing the Judge’s Wig, Strong’s Cave.
Looking up underneath the Judge’s Wig, Strongs Cave.

Christmas Star extensions of Crystal cave

This pre conference excursion was run by the Western Australian Speleological Group and we thank them – especially Tim,Greg and Luana – for their time and organizing an amazing excursion.

Crazy cavers at the WASG hut. Rob, Duncan, Claire, Tom, Luana and Greg

Conference week (23 – 29 July)

It was much cooler in Penrith near Sydney and our accommodation was a caravan park 30 minutes walk away from conference venue. It was sunny and t-shirt weather in the day, yet, thick coat time at night. A dedicated marquee held the poster displays, club stands and the speleo olympics. Presentations were held in the main Panthers building.

Pete and Angie Glanvill attempt the speleo olympics.

It was not all work and no play, we attended a mid-week dry canyoning trip in the Blue Mountains.


Claire at the top of the second pitch,dry canyoning in the Blue Mountains.

Our canyoning team (there were actually two other groups following different routes)

The conference week past in a flash ending with the traditional banquet. This started with a traditional Aboriginal welcome followed by food and much drinking. A slightly sad event as we were saying our goodbyes to new friends.


Jenolan Caves post-conference excursion

But it was not over! On the Sunday we met up at the Panthers event site, crammed ourselves into the back of a “trooper” and headed to Jenolan in the Blue Mountains for a week of caving!

Caves House, Jenolan. We stayed in a hostel behind the main building.

This excursion was larger with about 20 people attending with 10 different nationalities! The organizers had arranged a week of sporting caving and access into the show caves.

Decontamination was taken very seriously, with peoples kit sprayed to kill off any fungus that could potentially cause white nose syndrome.


Rigorous decontamination was carried out before anyone’s equipment went underground.

We were very privileged as one cave (the highly decorated Barralong) issues only 2 permits a year and the ICS excursion took them both!


Cave pearls in Barralong
A huge curtain impressively lit within the show cave, helectites grow from the wall.

Tuglow was to be the week’s “main event” with the entire group visiting the system in one hit, splitting up into several groups: the photographers doing the “gentle trip” and the full on “mega trip” with a guaranteed misery promised with an icy cold swim! Of cause the mega trip was a red rag to a bull to us and Claire and I eagerly signed up! Getting there involved a river crossing.

The original date for Tuglow was brought forward for fear of overnight rains swelling the river crossing.

Tuglow entrance involved abseiling (100m in 2 pitches), a high traverse above the stream with a sh*t scary bold step, big chambers, more abseiling, a “refreshing” dip (for the first time ever, being short actually meant that Claire did not have to swim!), then ladders up and out through fantastic flowstone chimneys. We were the last out and did a quick stomp up and over the ridge back to the cars to find a nice cup of tea on the brew. To top off an awesome day our excellent Australian hosts provided a BBQ back at their cavers hut!


Claire in the mainstream way of Tuglow, probably the best sporting trip in our visit to Australia.
Mark at the impressive gour pools in the main stream of Tuglow.
The gang at the cavers hut for a BBQ (Photo: Leda Zogbi)

Our last trip was Spider Cave, a trip made serious due to 3 very tight squeezes. Rescue beyond these would be impossible. A fourth squeeze, a very unpleasant tight flat out crawl gives access to a chamber with the unusual Palantear formation.

 Csaba the Hungarian photographer preparing his shot, he has specialised in 3D photos, Spider Cave.

Duncan with The Palantear

Like the previous two weeks, our Jenolan week passed in a blink of an eye and it was all too soon to head home. We were dropped off in Sydney and did some last minute sightseeing, the Opera House and Sydney Eye tower. It was then back on the planes for a soul crushing 24 hours of travel.

This post conference excursion was run by the Newcastle & Hunter Valley Speleological Society and we thank them – particularly Andrew, Peter, Mel, Dan, Mark, Steve and Chris – for their time and organising an amazing excursion.

Oddly Sydney does not look so big when looking down from the tower…

Here is the proof showing Claire and I were on the opposite side of the planet!

Highlights?

Duncan – For me it has to be Easter cave and the stunning formations it held, another “highlight” was passing the fourth squeeze in Spider cave in Jenolan, right on the limit of what I can physically fit, not a place to lose your head! The lowlight, well I guess that was when I blew $5 on a “pokie” in Panthers in less than 30 seconds…

Claire – The caving and making plenty of new international caver friends. These conferences are a great way to meet more cavers and get access to special caves that would be pretty much impossible otherwise. My favourite caves were the blindingly pretty Easter Cave in Western Australia and the fun, varied, sporting trip in Tuglow (Jenolan Caves). Ooh! And I mustn’t forget the kangaroos! I saw loads of them, including a field full of around 40 wild ones at one point, but it still wasn’t enough. Even briefly seeing a Huntsman spider (read VERY big spider) was a highlight as I won’t forget that in a hurry. I was also delighted that Spider Cave did not live up to its name and be filled with spiders. Lowlight was the over 24 hours of travelling time to get there.

Local Update

Local Update

Once again, plenty has been going on at and around SWCC. We recently had new provisional member, Lucy, spend a week in South Wales for some caving and walking fun. She met many new cavers, saw places she had not visited before in OFD, visited the Neath…

Caving in Yorkshire is awesome!

Caving in Yorkshire is awesome!

Trip date: 17th-18th June 2017


Team; Stuart Bennett, Bob Hall, Elaine Hall, Duncan Hornby, Helen Hooper, Andy Jones, Richard Sore and Claire Vivian


Everyone arrived in Yorkshire on the Friday to stay at the excellent Bunkhouse at Hardraw run by the SWCC members Helen and Andy. Duncan managed to break his record of getting to Hardraw now taking no less than 8½ hours to get there…


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Hardraw Old School Bunkhouse in the glorious sunshine.


Whilst having a cheeky pint in the Green Dragon, Richard and Stuart arrived looking just as frazzled from their long drives. With a fairly early start and knackered from driving it did not take too much for everyone to retire!


Saturday – Meregill Hole

The SWCC group split into two groups; the advance party rigging pitches 1 and 2 but going no further and the rest following an hour later to complete the rigging to the bottom. The reason this was done was that Andy had two clients (Ariana and Lee) who were on an improver SRT course. They were improving their skills and a full trip to the very bottom would not have been appropriate. Andy gave Duncan the opportunity to rig pitches 1 and 2 which he jumped at under his watchful eye, dispensing best practise and advice. Bob joined the advance party and went no further than pitch 2 as he was recovering from a shoulder injury.

An excellent description and rigging guide can be found on the CNCC website here.


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Andy and his SRT clients (Ariana and Lee) at Meregill entrance.


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Andy abseiling the first pitch.

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Stunning rays of light in the Mere entrance.

Pitch 1 was relatively easily to rig as it was at the surface, pitch 2 had an “interesting” traverse line that lead to the pitch head. It is high up near the roof and you find yourself desperately trying to jam yourself into any place that will hold you as you attempt to rig.

image018.jpg
Lee passing the deviation on the second pitch.
image022.jpg
Bob arrives at the base of the second pitch.


Whilst waiting at the base of pitch 2, to our surprise 3 Wessex cavers came shooting past and overtook us. Stuart, Claire and Richard arrived and Duncan joined their team. Bob, Andy, Ariana and Lee then returned to the surface. Apparently Andy put them through their paces getting them to repeat some of the skills they were learning, so no rest for the wicked!

Stuart and Richard continued rigging the pitches, made more fiddly with the Wessex rigging in place. Big pitches and several hanging re-belays made for a “lonely” trip until we all gathered at the base of pitch 5. It was at this point the Wessex team blasted past us on their way out…

Aware of time we decided to keep the exploration short. With various options lying ahead Stuart who has visited this cave before announced he had “not been this way” and this was reason enough to give it ago. I now know that if Stuart says “not been this way before” that is reason enough not to go there! A painful hands and knees crawl with SRT kit was not what I wanted! Almost at the point of turning around I could hear Stuart ahead saying he was in a stream way which eventually rejoined the obvious stream way which we had ignored.

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Stuart in the Meregill stream way.

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The team (Duncan, Claire, Richard and Stuart) near the base of the 5th and final pitch.


After our team photo we headed out; again a lonely journey as we strung out waiting for each pitch to clear and people derigging. We de-rigged the pitches we had rigged. I was secretly pleased with this as poor old Richard and Stuart dragged out the heaviest bags from the deepest parts of the system, kudos to them! As I (Duncan) had rigged the 2 pitches at the entrance I was the last out and was welcomed by a glorious sunny evening with spectacular vistas that only chapel-le-dale can offer.

We got back to the cars, quickly changed, Bob had been a trooper and waited for us, then a mad dash back to Hawes for food. We were joined by Jo White and the rest of the evening was spent in the Green Dragon in Hardraw talking about Richard’s pants, a topic that just kept on giving…




Sunday – Roaring Hole

A rigging guide can be found on the CNCC website here.

Due to time constraints Sunday had to be a short trip and Roaring Hole in Chapel-le-dale fitted the bill. We said our goodbyes at Hardraw and headed over to park up and change. The weather was glorious and was promising to be a scorcher.

Stuart came over but the weather was just too good to get him underground, so only Duncan, Claire and Richard entered Roaring Hole.

The entrance is within a section of limestone paving just off the main track.


Duncan, Richard and Claire at the entrance of Roaring Hole.


At the car we had re-evaluated what we planned to do and with time against Duncan and Claire we decided to just do the first pitch and get as far as we could before turning around.

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Looking out or Roaring Hole – saying goodbye to the sunlight.

Duncan installing rigging at the first pitch.


The first pitch is a nice friendly pitch with easy access, no desperate hanging rebelays as in Meregill the day before.


Duncan about to descend the first pitch.

There is a wide ledge for the second half of the first pitch which allowed us to take a few action shots.


Claire descending the second part of pitch 1, Richard in background.

We continued our exploration passing through boulder chokes seemingly held up by rusting scaffolding poles.

Duncan near some pretties.

We passed through a few damp patches and finally arrived at Masons Chamber where a rather tight and awkward squeeze into more boulder choke had to be passed. No problem for Claire, a bit more worrisome for Richard and I!

Richard in the squeeze out of Mason’s Chamber.

We eventually got to what we believe is Slab Climb which would have required using a bit of kit to get down safely. This turned out to be a suitable turn around point.

We retraced our tracks and exited into scorching sunshine.

Ingleborough in the sunshine.

We said our goodbyes and then Duncan and Claire made a dash for Newbury so Claire could catch her connecting train. Richard met up with Jo and they visited Mistral to pick up some data loggers.

News: Generous Gift to SECRO in Memory of the late Paul Dold LRPS

News: Generous Gift to SECRO in Memory of the late Paul Dold LRPS

Paul Dold’s death last year in a diving accident in Cornwall shocked his many friends in a way only the unexpected death of someone with such a huge appetite for life can. A Justgiving campaign set up in Paul’s memory raised over £7,000 for Horsham District Scouts, Cornwall Air Ambulance and cave rescue, with over…

South Wales Caving Club – blog 2017-05-29 18:57:00

South Wales Caving Club – blog 2017-05-29 18:57:00

North Wales Mines Weekend. Anglesey. 13-14 May.
Team: Bill Buxton, Graham Christian, Brian Clipstone, Howard Dare, Peter Dennis, Kevin Diffey, Andy Dobson, Dave Dobson, Spencer Drew, Andy Freem, Antonia Freem, Mark Hampson, Barbara Lane, Fred Levett, Malcolm Lloyd, Harvey Lomas, Dave Mullin, Angie Peacock, Allan Richardson, Claire Vivian.

First of all, thanks to Allan for organising this! We stayed at the Anglesey Outdoor Centre, the weather was amazing and it was Brian’s 70th birthday. All this provided the perfect backdrop for a weekend filled with mine exploration and good company. 

Anglesey Outdoor Centre

Saturday we all arrived bright and early at the Parys Mountain carpark. Three members of the Parys Underground Group (PUG) had kindly agreed to take us all in to the mine – no mean feat with almost 20 people wating to go underground! We divided in to 3 groups, one group would do Parys-Mona, the second would do Mona-Parys and the third would explore the upper levels of Parys. I did the Mona to Parys trip and it was a goond one. This was a pretty active trip with a couple of ladders, hand-lined climbs, crawls and wading through water. And plenty to see in the form of Copper Sulphate crystals, snotites, snotite curtains and Bronze Age workings.


The team muster at the entrance to Parys mine
For modern day Parys Mountain, it all began on 2nd March 1768 when a large vein of copper ore was discovered there. Copper was mined at Parys Mountain and then taken down to Amlwch Port where it was processed further before being shipped to Swansea and also around the world. Indeed, the mine later developed into one of the largest copper mines in the world, the largest, some might argue. Apparently, so influential was Amlwch and Anglesey copper that the British navy under Lord Nelson used the metal for sheathing its ships and for use in manufacturing cannons. Incredibly, it seems as far back as 4,000 years ago, during the Bronze Age, local people had discovered traces of copper here and on the trip we were shown evidence of Bronze Age workings (dug out using pebbles).

The through-trip was mainly dry, but there were some sections of water that were waist deep and the connection itself, which was the drainage level between Mona and Parys mines, was constricted and the water was slightly higher here. I was bending at the waist to walk through the passage and the water was a couple of inches below my face. We were told that the water level varied here and at times it was necessary to remove your helmet as there would be only a few inches of air space. The water in the mine was also incredibly acidic (pH of 2 in places; tap water would be around 7) and there were regular wash stations to clean eyes if any happened to splash in your face. I know this doesn’t sound good, but it didn’t cause us any problems in there. 
Above ground is a surreal, alien, landscape with red, yellow and brown hues of ochre. When the light catches it, it is radiant and almost pretty really.

The Great Opencast

Angie crawling through some workings
Fred wading through the lower levels

Bill, Howard, Malcolm and Harvey near a very acidic pool (Photo: Barbara Lane)

Interesting formations. (Photo: Barbara Lane)
Copper Sulphate crystals
Some of the team in Parys Mountain (Photo: Barbara Lane)
Spencer on the summit of Parys Mountain

Trip time: 4 hours.

The afternoon saw us head off to the coast for some exploration. Several of us went to South Stack to look at the lighthouse. It was then time to help Brian celebrate his birthday! How many people can see they had their birthday meal in a yurt with 20 of their friends!

Angie and Claire near South Stack lighthouse (photo: Barbara Lane)

Happy Birthday Brian! (Photo: Angie Peacock)

Sunday
Road trip to Llandudno and the Great Orme! The morning saw us head in to Ty Gwyn mine, which was right on the seafront. We had some very strange looks from people as we were standing there in caving kit and then disappeared down a manhole in the middle of the promenade! Members of the Great Orme Exploration Society were generous with their time and helped us out by leading trips, or providing advice and a survey. This was a nice short trip, around 1 1/2 hours. Plenty of artifacts to look at and mud to stomp about in.

Getting ready to enter the mine.

Ty Gwyn was first opened in 1835 and during its working life produced over £100,000 worth of copper. It finally closed in 1853 after many years of continuous flooding. Copper still lies below sea level there and is perhaps awating a future mining enterprise.

Cleaning up in the sea after Ty Gwyn (Photo: Angie Peacock)

Following this trip, the groups split in two. Some of us headed home and others went on to visit the Roman Shaft on top of the Great Orme and enjoy ice cream in the sun.

Getting ready to go! (Photo: Angie Peacock)
Angie getting comfortable before the abseil.

Fred on his way underground.

Thanks to members of the Parys Underground Group and the Great Orme Exploration Society for giving up their time and arranging trips for us.

News: University of Bristol Carbon-Dating Facility

News: University of Bristol Carbon-Dating Facility

In November 2015, the University of Bristol unveiled the brand new Bristol Radiocarbon Accelerator Mass Spectrometer (BRAMS). This instrument is based on one of the new generation of ultra-compact high-precision AMS instruments and will be used for 14C analysis in environmental, archaeological and palaeoenvironmental research. The term ultra-compact is relative, as the instrument weighs 4.5 metric…

Bookings for NAMHO 2017 Now Live

Bookings for NAMHO 2017 Now Live

Bookings are now open for the National Association of Mining History Organisations (NAMHO) Conference 2017, to be based around Godstone, Surrey, UK over the weekend of 23-26th June 2017. A lively and exciting weekend of underground trips, lectures and social events, hosted by the Wealden Cave & Mine Society, in their 50th anniversary year, so…

To bail or not to bail that is the question…

To bail or not to bail that is the question…

Trip date: 9th-11th December 2016


Team: Stuart Bennett, James Hallihan, Piers Hallihan,Duncan Hornby, Jo Myburgh,Helen Stewart, Malcolm Stewart, Phill Thomas, Claire Vivian

The team arrived on the Mendips Friday evening around 9.30pm. Abandoning Piers and James at the Shepton the rest went for the obligatory drink at the Hunters Lodge only to return and find Piers fully immersed in Southsea CC shenanigans.

Most of the team had either never visited Swildons or had not been in it for many years. After discussion it was decided that Swildons was to be the Saturday trip.

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Shepton Mallet Caving Club hut, Sunday afternoon with sunset and mist providing an atmospheric backdrop.

Saturday


Swildons

A lazy start gave Duncan the opportunity to pop over to the MCG hut and pick up the Pine Tree Pot key for Sunday’s trip. We then all headed off for Swildon’s Hole.

It was going well so far. We were on time, had a callout sorted (thanks Toby!), were the first caving party to arrive at the barn in Priddy and were prepared to either visit Sump 1 (James and Piers), or complete the Swildon’s short round trip (everyone else).

Within minutes this all changed. Mike and Jann from CSS/GSS turned up and explained that they had been told one of the sumps on the Short Round trip was un-bailable. Hmm. Major sticking point for our group… We had a quick group chat and decided to stick with the main plan of going in to Swildon’s and just seeing how far we could get on the trip. It was Helen and James’ first visit to Swildon’s, so all of it would be new cave for them.

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The SWCC team at Swildons Hole entrance.

The team all headed off downstream to enjoy the Twenty, Double Pots and Barnes Loop together, before breaking off into two parties at Tratmans temple.

Jo at the climb at what is known as the forty foot pot.
Piers safety lining Jo at the main pitch.
Duncan descending the main pitch.
Jo making the final climb down from Barnes Loop.

Piers at Tratman’s temple, it was this point that the team split into two.
As it turned out, this was a very good decision. Although over 20 minutes of bailing saw no noticeable change in the water level in Mud Sump – despite Stewart and Claire’s overly optimistic sighting of a tiny gap.
Claire and Stewart valiantly bail the Mud Sump without reward.
Malcolm pouring water into the contraption that syphons off the water away from the sump.

This was a bit disappointing, yes, but we still had good fun. We retraced our steps to Tratman’s Temple and then continued down to Sump 2. James got to try out his first caving ladder (on the Twenty) and Helen dived through her first sump, so altogether, an interesting day. As the pace was more gradual than expected, we had more time to actually stop and look around at the cave, admiring the formations. And, of course, no-one managed to fall in near the Double Pots on the way out…

Phil passing through Sump 1 only to immediately return to keep Jo company.

Claire passing Sump 1

Helen’s reward for passing through Sump 1!

James’ take on the trip
Jo and James

On Saturday it was my first ever trip into Swildons Hole – actually my first trip outside South Wales. Although a very good and interesting one it was a very wet and tiring one full of new experiences. One of the first was doing a twenty foot ladder climb under ground. Afterwards we thought that although it would make the other ladder climbs easier, perhaps starting on a calcite flow in a waterfall wasn’t the best place to learn how to climb a ladder. Another new experience for me was getting properly wet in a cave. For all of the nine years of my caving experience (being only 12 that is all I could sensibly do) I tried to avoid water in a cave. Swildons wasn’t the easiest place to do that. The first giveaway that it was a wet trip was the fact that I had to put on a wetsuit. If my dad had his way I would have got even wetter and gone through sump 1. No way! Being used to caving in the Brecon Beacons, I was used to seeing straight 15 degree rock strata so it was a shock to see the beds at Swildons were all wave shaped. I was glad that I had gone on that trip but slightly more glad that I went from the entrance to sump 1 and back instead of the round trip.

Eventually everyone exited the system and returned to the Shepton for a cup of tea and freshness up before heading out for a meal.


Relaxing in the Shepton.

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James make short work of the Caving Table, the centerpiece of the Shepton Common room.


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Team enjoying a drink and meal at the Queen vic, along with Southsea and Dudley caving club!

Sunday



Goatchurch


Sunday’s trip into Goatchurch was another significant event. Not only did it mark James’ 50th logged trip underground, it was also Lizzy’s first trip since the arrival of baby Aurelia 6 weeks earlier and Jo reminded us it was almost a recreation of her first trip with SWCC in 2009 when Lizzy and I led a team of new cavers, including Jo and Claire around OFD2.

Goatchurch is a fun little cave – there’s a few sporty squeezes and interesting traverses. There’s enough to keep you on your toes but it’s still a relatively safe cave for beginners too.

With this in mind, we put gave James a survey and put him in charge of route finding.

By the time we left SMCC after a leisurely breakfast, James had a round trip all planned out, taking in most of the cave, including both entrances. Packing all our kit to head for off I found that the SMCC drying room is largely ineffective and was very relieved at my decision to pack a spare undersuit!

We met Lizzy and family at Burrington Coombe car park – Mat was left in charge of looking after car keys and babysitting Seb and Aurelia and we set off on the stroll up the Coombe towards Goatchurch, seeing some significant signs of recent flood damage to the paths on the way.

Footpath to Goatchurch


Team at the upper entrance of Goatchurch

Once underground, James got to grips with the survey. The 3D cave is very different to the flat 2D map and doesn’t really prepare you for dangling over some interesting rifts with very polished handholds. We walked in the main entrance, past the remnants of a long abandoned attempt at making a show cave and, after working our way along a passage marked on the survey as “Bloody Tight” (it’s not that bad really) we made our way down to the Drainpipe, a nice, fossil lined low crawl that marks the lowest point of the cave.

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Piers exiting the drain pipe.


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James in the drain pipe!

We poked around the chamber beyond and decided that none of us (not even James) fancied what the survey described as a “Very Tight Final Rift”, especially as the guidebook adds “very difficult to reverse” to that description. Strangely, nobody fancied the “Hellish Tight” bypass either so we retraced our steps, climbing up over the Slide (or Coffin Lid, depending on which version of the survey you have) and into a maze of rifts of various sizes leading, eventually, to the Tradesmans Entrance to complete the round trip. James did have a bit of a surprise when he popped his head out of the flat crawl, almost into the mouth of a rather large dog which was looking into the cave!


Lizzy exiting Goatchurch via the lower entrance


The team out and alive!

After checking out the entrance to nearby Sidcot Swallet, we headed back down to the Burrington Inn for a well deserved lunch round the fire. There was even an early trip to Santa’s workshop – having found out that Mr “Starless River” Seddon was staying at the Wessex, we called in on the way back to SMCC to get a new pair of James sized knee pads and to order a replacement for my very well worn oversuit (When you touch the sides more than the average caver, your suit tends to wear much quicker!)


James’ take on the trip


Goatchurch was a very fun cave despite being very small and full of precarious rifts and climbs. At the entrance I was told that I had to navigate around the cave. After walking in through the main entrance we walked down a slippery calcite flow named the giants staircase, aptly named as some of the foot holds down it were very hard to reach. After we had gone giants staircase, we had to go down ‘bloody tight’ which as the name suggests should have been quite tight, it really wasn’t. After negotiating a very large step across the bottom of ‘bloody tight’ we were in boulder chamber. There wasn’t much to see and we were soon talking to some others staying at SMCC at the top of the slide. As there were three others yet to come over the actual slide we decided to climb down under the slide. After looking round the fairly unimpressive grotto we headed down to water chamber and down the drainpipe to nearly the end of the cave. We didn’t see the actual end of the cave as some members weren’t the right size to fit so we retraced our steps to the bottom of ‘bloody tight’ and to the other end of the cave by the coal chute. Whilst looking around to find the coal chute we noticed a single bat hibernating in the cave. After looking at the coal chute we decided that we wouldn’t climb up it without a handline (that we left in the bag in the car) and went around it. After slowly sliding up a calcite flow, we had a scary dog encounter where a dog appeared from nowhere and starting smelling my face. After we returned home, my dad pointed out to me that since our records began in 2011, I had done 50 caving trips, more than likely qualifying me for my cavers+ badge in scouts.


GB Cave

After a leisurely start on Sunday and a quite a bit of faffing Malcolm, Helen and Phill drove the short distance through rolling fog and mist banks and parked at the farm at Gorsay Bigbury. (For future reference note there is a £1 fee payable to the farm – apparently it goes to the childrens’ pocket money.)

A short walk across the fields (hopping over electric fences and high gates) got us to the right shakehole and the entrance blockhouse. Helen and Phill then made friends with the local ponies for twenty minutes while Malcolm went back to the van to get the cave key out of his trouser pocket…

Once in the cave we descended the steep entrance passage, adorned with various bats, and took the first left and generally headed downwards to enter the iconic impressive Gorge and then arrive at the Bridge. Further down we had a quick look at the view from the dizzying height of the waterfall and, after taking some photos, returned upstream and made our way over the Bridge and up towards the White Passage, where there are lots of fine calcite formations. 


Malcolm on the Bridge in GB


White Passage ascends steeply via at least one tricky climb to a boulder choke, with a similar steep dead-end passage reached through a short crawl near the top (West Extension). 

Back at the foot of White Passage we found the hole going down towards Rift Passage and followed this to traverse across the top of Rift Chamber. We were trying to find our way round the oxbow, working from Duncan’s half-remembered verbal description and a poor and increasingly muddy photocopy of an old survey. Rather than finding the way on we diverted off the main route up the narrow, and in places tight Rhumba Alley, oh what fun we had…. More bruises.

Error realised we returned to Rift Chamber and took the obvious easy route from the base of this, following the water. The Loop and Oxbow are fine sections of passage, with excellent stalactites visible in the roof and a couple of interesting down-climbs, which finally drop you out of Oxbow Inlet into the main passage, some distance downstream from the waterfall. Whilst posing for photos we could see the chain, at the top of the ladder dig climb, in the roof downstream of us.


Malcolm and Phill looking at the rigging points for the Ladder Dig in GB

After a quick break for a chocolate bar lunch Malcolm used an interesting method to rig a temporary ladder, so that we could explore the Ladder Dig. Once up we suddenly realised that it was much much wetter than we had been led to expect! The crawl led to a deep and freezing cold duck with only a very narrow airspace (apparently a damp crawl under normal conditions) and then within a few meters a second cold tight duck, which had us lying on our backs with our noses pressed to the roof!

Malcolm passing the ladder dig squeeze

To warm up we were met with a boulder choke with numerous routes up towards the Great Chamber. We made a concerted effort to find that chamber (almost losing the cave key down between boulders in the process), but eventually gave up as time was ticking on and decided to try and find Bat Passage instead. This was located by picking our way through the boulder choke guided by polished surfaces on the right hand wall, the only stable wall in the area. We were rewarded with a large taped passage, with some fine pure white formations lining the ceiling and walls. The passage ends at a large descending muddy dig with various tools and piping visible.

On our way back we exited by climbing up the waterfall in the main passage, which wasn’t as difficult as expected, and found most of Dudley Caving Club taking photos at The Bridge.

An excellent trip, to a similar level of difficulty as yesterday’s Swildon’s trip.



Trip time 5 hours.

Pine Tree Pot


The trip into Pine Tree Pot almost did not happen as on Friday the penny dropped and I (Duncan) realised that to do the trip one required some 8mm hangers. Luckily I met a Shepton member who was able to lend us the much needed equipment. Turned out that at the top of the main pitch there were 3 very nice new and shinny hangers in place, so I decided to use those instead of the rusting spit holes…

We had parked at the MCG and walked to the cave and I impressed Stuart and Claire with my uncanny ability to walk straight to the cave entrance. This had nothing to do with me previously looking at Google Earth…

Lifting the lid to Pine Tree Pot!

Duncan abseiling the entrance pitch (5m)

The entrance is a classic concrete tube which you can rig off to do the 5m pitch. Rules stipulated that the lid needed to be put back once in the cave but that would have been very difficult to lift off so it was dragged partially on to stop any sheep deciding to take up caving.

3m on into the cave is the main pitch. This was quite awkward as you had to post yourself almost over the edge to get access to the hangers, so in the photo below my feet are over nothing!

With a much appreciated double check from Stuart (who has more experience in rigging than I) and 12m later I was at the bottom of the main pitch.


Duncan rigging the top of Pine Tree Pitch with Stuart ensuring quality control!

The cave is quite small and definitely a Sunday tip, but that does not mean it’s easy as the name “Easy Street” implies! Following the obvious main way on down Rumble rift we followed Easy street which got progressively tighter. At some point Stuart had to do some strenuous reversing! If Claire says it’s tight I didn’t even bother…

We headed back and looked for Moonlight grotto, joking about the huge number of formations that were not there. We found the way into Moonlight Grotto and to our surprise it had lots of pure white calcite, a sharp contrast to the rest of the cave.

Claire and Stuart in Moonlight Grotto

Claire admiring formations in Moonlight Grotto.

Took some photos then headed out via another route back to the pitch. Stuart, Claire then I ascended the pitch, I derigged and we all came out into cool and sunny weather.

Pokémon?

As it was such a short trip we decided to pop into the Hunters for lunch, only to find it had stopped serving food, so we went to the Castle of Comfort which had also stopped serving, then Burrington which was serving and we found the others with Lizzy and Matt enjoying lunch.

Trip time: 2.5 hours

Slip ‘n’ Slide

Slip ‘n’ Slide
Team: Andy Freem, Antonia Freem, Mark Hampson, Colin Hoare, Duncan Hornby, Phil Knight, Tim Lewingdon, Chris Taylor & Claire Vivian.


Trip dates: 22nd-23rd October 2016.


With the exception of Colin and Phil (who turned up Sunday) everyone arrived Friday evening at Whitewalls and bedded in for the obligatory Friday night drinking session. Plans were hatched for an assault into Ogof Agen Allwedd and the inner circle trip.

Getting to Whitewalls had been problematic as the main road was closed for road works (again…) so everyone came up the incredibly steep road from LLangattock, first gear all the way!


Saturday

The team at the end of Sand Caverns, Agen Allwedd.

After some pre-caving faff we entered Aggy around 10:45. The entrance series is a fairly spacious walking and climbing passage, until it all got very narrow and tight, not what I remembered! We soon realised we had taken a wrong turn, back tracked and then found the way on.

We eventually got to the first choke and surprise we got lost again! For the record once you find the metal bar (which is a fairly new feature) head forward, right and then through a well worn tube at floor level on the left. Ignore the obvious stooping size page going straight ahead (which ends up in a dig a few feet further on)! Then it’s a crawl along a very worn section of the choke until you pop out into the impressively large main passage.

A short walk along this then a right into main stream and head downstream. Part way along this, one has to pass through the second boulder choke. Eventually one arrived at the Northwest junction, which is where Main Stream and Turkey Stream meet, having slipped and slid most of the way there. This was a key location, and can be easily missed, as the group doing the Grand Circle that day discovered to their detriment when they had to retrace their steps all the way back down Main Stream and up Southern Stream after mistakenly arriving at Turkey Pool. Head downstream follows the main streamway, but upstream (Turkey) was the direction we were heading. If was such an important junction that a “race for life” water bottle was left prominently in the hope of stopping us stomping past the junction looking for it on the way out.

Heading upstream we passed through Turkey Junction with the infamous coal cellar passage coming in from the right. We eventually hit Turkey Pool a narrowing of the passage creating a deep pool. You know you are there as this is the only point along the river passage where one (if they wished) can be chest deep in water!

We passed through Turkey chamber and then took a right into Hawkins Horror and once through that into ever increasingly larger passages. Once at the junction with selenite needle passage we made an executive decision to not head into the inner circle. We had lost time in the entrance series and first boulder choke and decided to head into the Sand caverns. This allowed us to maximise our time in Aggy and not overrun our call out.

This turned out to be a good choice as the Sand Caverns are really quite large and although not packed with formations well worth an explore.With a team photo taken at the bitter end we headed out. The Freems had been filming along the way and the video of our trip is below.

Total trip time: 8 hours 30 mins

In the evening a bunch of us headed to the local Indian for a slap up meal!

Beer and Popadums at the Red Indigo restaurant in Crickhowell.

Sunday

The team looking clean and enthusiastic, with Colin looking suspiciously clean… 

Fresh aches and pains emerged on Sunday morning for most people, so it was decided that a shorter trip was required today. Andy and Antonia fancied exploring Eglwys Faen and the rest of us thought that Craig a Ffynnon would fit the bill. We were also joined at Whitewalls by two extra club members, Phil Hughes and Colin Hoare. So it would be a good strong group of 7 that would head down the hill to the cave. Chris was really excited about this – he had wanted to visit Craig a Ffynnon for many years.

Unusually, the lock opened really easily today for Duncan, and we were in the cave within minutes. It was a later start for us today, so it was around 11am by this time. We then headed in through the pretty Straw Chamber up the ladder at First Choke on to the wet crawl through Gasoline Alley and all still fairly clean and fast going at this point. Arriving at the climb up to the second boulder choke we met a party of three on their way down and then suddenly a group of 8 Cardiff students also arrived to join us. Having been in Craig a Ffynnon several times before without meeting another group, the cave was suddenly looking incredibly busy! But we all got on well and had a chat while waiting for people to ascend/descend the pitch (although Chris had a rather close encounter with a small loose rock). The pitch was a fixed ladder up to a climb of around 8m that has a rope on it for the first part and then some metal plates bolted into the wall, via ferrata style, for the second bit – these are somewhat interesting if you have short legs.

One of the places it would be preferable not to meet another group travelling in the opposite direction, would be while you are actually in the Second Choke itself which is rather tortuous and squalid. So when we met another 3 people while in this we performed some interesting acrobatics to allow people to pass each other. It was then out into the big stuff and we soon reached the gloopy mud. Fun was had by most people in this as wellies came off and legs got stuck, it was soon followed by some slipping and sliding up mud banks and laughter was echoing around the passage. Great to have such good spirits on a caving trip. Onwards we went to the really big and pretty formations. Travertine Passage looked very impressive with its magnificent formations and gour pools, but the Hall of the Mountain King was even more so and almost rendered Chris speechless.

Hall of the Mountain King, Craig a Ffynnon.

After posing for some photos, we explored the area around Hall of the Mountain King and the passage on the right near the entrance to it. It was then time to turn around and head out (though we are all desperate to have a longer trip in here soon to visit the Promised Land!). We met the Cardiff group on their way into the Hall of the Mountain King, just as we were on our way out.

More entertainment was provided by the gloopy mud and the temporary loss of 5 wellies, where Claire and Tim proved absolutely useless at helping stuck cavers because they were laughing too much. The climb down from the Second Boulder Choke proved slightly more interesting on the way back down being as everyone was thoroughly covered in mud and very slippery, but there were no calamities and we all emerged out into a bright sunny day.

Total trip time: around 3.5 hours.

Muddy but Sunny! Colin looking not so clean!

Big pitches vs. sore knees!

Big pitches vs. sore knees!

Trip Dates: 16th -18th September 2016

Team:Derek Cousins, Celestine Crabbe, Mark Hampson, Duncan Hornby, Richard Sore, Helen Stewart, Malcolm Stewart, Phill Thomas, Claire Vivian


Another cracking weekend away, this time in the Peak District. With glorious weather and pubs dangerously close to the TSG hut in Castleton it was going to be a weekend well worth the effort (aka 7 hours of soul destroying driving).


Saturday

Titan

The entrance to Titan is an innocuous looking and beautifully engineered sliding manhole cover high on Hurd Low hill to the north of Castleton. From this vantage point, in fabulous still sunny weather, we had views north as far as Edinburgh and to the south could see the M4 as it goes round Cardiff; it seemed a pity to have to wrestle into stiff SRT harnesses and depart the glorious high peaks for the dark depths below.

Celestine, Mark, Malcolm, Richard and Phill at the entrance to Titan.

However, the key fitted the lock, the manhole opened, all the lights worked, we had all the ropes, it was going to have to be done…

Richard rigged from the girder and shackles just beneath the manhole cover and we followed down the initial pitch, which is a 48m free hang. Largely mined out you are struck as you descend by the amount of effort, concrete, time and money that have been poured into this shaft – once beneath the surface you can start to appreciate what a major civil engineering project this entrance shaft was. Helmets off to the cavers who created and funded it!

Richard rigging the first pitch.
Phill descending the first 45m pitch.

At the foot of the entrance shaft, turning away from the tiny circle of sunlight way up above, a stooping height mined passage leads into a wellie deep pool of muddy water. This continues round a couple of corners, to suddenly end at a window onto a vast black space. A doorstep of calcite with a few lumpy stalagmites on it provides the final launch pad, into the insanely big silo that is the Titan main shaft.

Rigging the second 70m pitch is ‘interesting’. The bolts are high up and well out, and to reach them you have to stand on tip-toe with one foot on a polished 6” high stalagmite, whilst tensioned onto the rope to the back-up belay with a hand jammer. Reaching at full stretch, with the rigging krabs gripped in wobbly finger-tips, it is hard to ignore the black void sucking at your back.

Celestine looking down towards Event Horizon at the top of the second 70m pitch.

The distant bolts do however provide a free-hang and once on the pitch everything becomes a bit more comfortable. Down, down, down, the rope sliding through the rack. Spinning gently, huge calcite flows and half seen corners of the shaft are dimly seen, my Fenix HL55 even on setting 4 is not powerfull enough for this. This is a totally lonely experience, the rest of the team above at the window might as well not be there, there is as far as I can tell no floor beneath me.

Eventually I feel and hear the tackle bag hit the Event Horizon, and I bounce gently on the elastic rope down a boulder slope to bolts, and put a re-belay in. Now I can stand and wait, secure, whilst Phill’s tiny glimmer of light descends towards me. It takes forever.

Phill takes over the rigging for the final pitch, dropping over the sloping lip of the Event Horizon to find and rig the free-hanging Y-hang, that supports the final drop to the floor of the shaft 65m below. Celestine lands beside me at the rebelay, and I then follow Phill, and make a total RS of passing the y-hang. Not the best place to spend ten minutes sweating and swearing; everything seems to be rigged left-handed and the wrong length; annoying because I know my SRT technique is flawless. Maybe I am going demented because beneath me I can see more than one light and hear voices – surely I haven’t been dangling here long enough for Phill to multiply by binary fission? Eventually, using a footloop and with one leg braced behind my ear, I manage to free my short cow’s tail from the bolt and fall exhausted onto my descender.

The second half of the shaft is as vast as the first and passes through a spatter of welcome spray to land at the foot of a huge jumble of boulders.

The top of the pile represented a good place out of the draft to sit and watch the rest of the team descend, Phill (just one of him) reports that the other team have been and gone – they made very good time.

Celestine descends third and Helen then proved that the y-hang can easily be passed if you know what you’re doing (perhaps I need to look at my technique after all) and Richard and Mark arrive shortly afterwards.

Mark descending the third 60m pitch.

All down we leave three of the SRT kits in the bag hanging from the end of the rope and follow Claire’s party out of Peak, following a trail of little cairns like breadcrumbs through the cave.

   
Richard and Mark at the top of the “Bung”.

The duck full of Cow Arse Worms is memorable (strong motivator to hold your breath) and colostomy crawl is well named – imagine a Cwm Dwr sized crawl filled with diarrhoea and you won’t be far off. Dragging a tackle bag through this is just fabulous fun; I think I may have said a rude word.

Richard at Surprise View.

All told an excellent trip taking about six hours to reach the warm air of the show cave and then the daylight at the impressive Peak Cavern entrance.

(Titan was de-rigged the next day by Richard, Phill, Malcolm and Mark; de-rigging took about 2 hours.)

Back at base (TSG) – a very muddy Phill about to enjoy a well deserved cup of tea 🙂


Peak Cavern

Who must really enjoy crawling in liquid mud? It has to be Duncan, Derek and Claire who had fun passing through Colostomy Crawl, not once, but twice, in the same trip.

As Malcolm, Helen, Phill, Richard, Celestine and Mark headed for the entrance to Titan the three of us strolled along the riverside walk to the entrance of Peak Cavern in the sunshine (rather a fast-paced stroll as we had Keith from the TSG with us). This was only a second visit to Peak for us, so our plan was to focus on route finding and try and reach the bottom of Titan from Peak, then exit via Peak again. Keith was heading to the White River series to replace a rope, so it fortuitously turned out that part of our trips would overlap and Keith could show us how to get as far as the Whirlpool. We had a small copy of the Peak-Speedwell survey with us, and this proved pretty useful further on in the trip.

Despite having a tacklebag the weight of a small child, Keith was even faster underground than he had been on the walk through Castleton. We left the showcave and were through the Mucky Ducks and at Treasury Chamber in no time. We then climbed the fixed ladder there and found ourselves in the Trenches (muddy crawling) and Colostomy Crawl (even more muddy crawling). Here we wallowed our way through mud for around 20-30 minutes, passing the junction with the Wind Tunnel and then emerged reborn at the top of Egnaro Aven. This proved to be an easy climb down a series of fixed ladders, though we were all covered in mud and making everything around us rather slippery at this time. We then sped on to find the Short Bypass (first small climb on the right, for anyone wondering) and met another group who had entered via Speedwell at Block Hall. Moving on in the Bung Hole streamway we were able to have a look at the actual Bung in the dam, as the stream was low. Here you reach another fixed ladder climb (approx. 15ft) up the dam wall. As it had been dry in recent days, the ladder climb was easy, but if it has rained recently, you will find yourself climbing up through a torrent of water. It is then a fairly short wade past the entrance to Far Canal (gated access to Speedwell showcave) to reach the Whirlpool. The scaff bars that have been placed on the wall to enable you to cross give an indication of what the area is like in wet conditions, but today the water was several inches below them and I was able to wade through it- it was only around chest deep, no swimming required. By this point, we were around 2hrs into our trip and it was time to head off on our own as Keith went his own way to sort out the rope.

We expected the route finding to be harder than it turned out to be and within the next 30 minutes we found our way to Titan, having a fabulous game of ‘gates and ladders’ along the way. The most memorable sections were one particularly awkward gate to open from underneath whilst balancing on a rocking ladder, Stemple Highway with its mildly interesting for short legs traverses and a good few squeezes which were definitely easier in the opposite direction. Not to mention the smelly pool of water, almost a duck, that contains the notorious Cow Arse Worms (which we passed through twice and managed to avoid getting). We got slightly lost once following some bang wire, but this turned out to be a small detour and we regained the route fairly quickly. We then emerged through an uphill crawl into the bottom of Titan. This was incredibly impressive and Duncan had fun experimenting with the tremendous echo there. When we arrived, we could see a member of the Titan team was rigging the Event Horizon, so we decided to wait for them to come down to say hello. Before long, Phill abseiled down and joined us. The rest of the team were on their way down, but we decided to push on back to Peak as it was getting chilly waiting there. On the way out we made good progress – though Colostomy Crawl seemed even longer on the way back – and decided to spend some time exploring the Peak streamway as Derek had not been there before and it is a fine streamway. We headed to Surprise View and down another fixed ladder to the river – we headed downstream as far as Buxton Water Sump and then went upstream as far as the cascade.

We spent ages cleaning our caving kit before entering the showcave (as Peak access rules dictate) and this turned out to be time well-spent as there was a tour group at the end of the cave just as we arrived. We had a chat with a couple of tourists in the group on the way out and then emerged into the sunshine once again.

Trip time: 6 hrs.


Sunday

Giants Hole


The trip into Giants Hole was to be their first visit for Celestine, Claire and Helen with Duncan leading the round trip. It should be noted that the landowner is now charging a whopping £3 per person to cross their land, this placed into a safety box where one parks.

We were to do the classic round trip, with Helen announcing that this was her first trip with Duncan, so no pressure then… 🙂

Celestine, Duncan, Claire and Derek preparing to leave the sunshine for Giants Hole.


Entering the cave we quickly got to the top of Garland Pot. My 9m ladder easily reached the bottom but a 20m rope would have been best (I only had a 15m). Several well placed bolts and an easy take-off make this a simple pitch to rig.

Duncan belaying Derek on Garland Pot pitch, Giants Hole.

Derek belaying Duncan down Garland Pot pitch.

At the bottom of the pitch is the start of the Crabwalk, a tight meandering passage very similar to maypole inlet in OFD. The main difference is that it just keeps going on and on! There is over 600m of Crabwalk there.

The team in one of the very few places within the Crab walk where people can gather!

One location (the Vice) requires the larger person to pretty much lie in the streamway as it is so narrow.

Going to the bitter end of the Crabwalk ends at a sump so we backed up about 15m and headed out of the stream to the left. At this point (the Eating House) there are several ways on but we needed to go up the awkward climb up where the knotted rope with footloops requires good upper body strength to haul yourself up ‘n’ out into Maggin’s Rift.

Then there was much memory loss, another longer but easier climb, leading ultimately to a junction known as Poached Egg.

Helen at top of a pitch (name unknown) on the return part of the trip.

Turning right eventually leads to the Devil’s Windpipe, which requires a flat out crawl into a duck that can sump. According to the sign placed at the entrance, if it sumps it should not be attempted as it is over 20m in length. After much crawling and going wrong only once we eventually popped out above the crab walk. Fortunately for us someone had left a rope in situ so we abseiled down it. It is possible to free climb it down further on, where the rocks offer good footholds.

Claire descending into Crab Walk using an Italian Hitch.

We finally headed up stream back to Garlands pot pitch and once de-rigged we headed out.

Trip time: 4 Hours

Authors: Malcolm, Helen, Claire and Duncan