Other Sites and Blogs

We can’t hope to bring you every story, but there are plenty of caving and mining blogs out there you can browse at your leisure! Have a read through some of the best! If you know of a blog you’d like us to add to this page please let us know!

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Ancient giant sperm from tiny shrimps discovered at Riversleigh World Heritage Fossil Site

Preserved giant sperm from tiny shrimps that lived about 17 million years ago have been discovered in Queensland, Australia. They are the oldest fossilized sperm ever found in the geological record. The shrimps lived in a pool in an ancient cave inhabi ...
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Corn dwarfed by temperature dip suitable for growing in mines, caves

Lowering temperatures for two hours each day reduces the height of corn without affecting its seed yield, a study shows, a technique that could be used to grow crops in controlled-environment facilities in caves and former mines. Raising the crops in i ...
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Can you cut rope with a household jet washer?

After the last blog post where I tried to compare washing a caving rope in a washing machine to jet washing I thought I’d try to see how much damage I could do to a rope with a jet washer. … Continue reading ...
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Thoughts on jet washing caving ropes

I thought I’d ponder a little bit about the ‘myth’ of jet washers and caving ropes. I say myth because it appears that there is no real test data out there in the caving community. Recent caving forum discussions about … Continue reading ...
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“Did I Mention I’ve got lurgy?”

15/03/2014 - The Psychotronic Strangeways, Daren Cilau, with Tom and EmmaI'm lying on the sofa feeling quite broken typing this on Sunday evening. I guess that's what happens if you go caving in Daren Cilau when you aren't very well (actually I think t ...
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Lurking in the darkness of Chinese caves, five new species of armored spiders come to light

Armored spiders are medium to small species that derive their name from the complex pattern of the plates covering their abdomen strongly resembling body armor. Lurking in the darkness of caves In Southeast China, scientists discover and describe five ...
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Little Foot is oldest complete Australopithecus, new stratigraphic research shows

After 13 years of meticulous excavation of the nearly complete skeleton of the Australopithecus fossil named Little Foot, South African and French scientists have now convincingly shown that it is probably around 3 million years old. ...
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Another trip down Titan

It's good to do Titan now and then to remind myself of how scary big pitches are. This time I had also claimed that I might be able to find my way through to Peak Cavern. The others on the trip (Kathryn, Matt and Sophie) didn't know the route so the po ...
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Sidetrack Cave

Sidetrack Cave has an unusual access procedure which involves abseiling down the side of a quarry to get to the entrance. Kathryn and I decided that this was enough of a novelty to warrant a trip in itself.After half an hour of wandering along some dod ...
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First evidence of primates regularly sleeping in caves

Scientists have discovered that some ring-tailed lemurs in Madagascar regularly retire to limestone chambers for their nightly snoozes, the first evidence of the consistent, daily use of the same caves and crevices for sleeping among the world's wild p ...
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Living desert underground: In perpetual darkness of limestone cave, surprisingly diverse ecosystem of microbes

Researchers have discovered a surprisingly diverse ecosystem of microbes in a limestone cave near Tucson, Arizona, eking out a living from not much more than drip water, rock and air. The discovery not only expands our understanding of how microbes man ...
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White-lipped peccary trails lead to archeological discovery in Brazil: 4,000- to 10,000-year-old cave drawings

While tracking white-lipped peccaries and gathering environmental data in forests that link Brazil's Pantanal and Cerrado biomes, researchers discovered ancient cave drawings made by hunter-gatherer societies thousands of years ago. ...
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Bonfire Night Caving

2nd and 3rd November 2013 It was a scene from a war film. Clouds of smoke billowed around us. We choked on the acrid smell of gunpowder, as we cowered from the rockets screaming overhead, temporarily illuminating the murky gloom as they explo ...
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Fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in bats proves hardy survivor

After taking an in-depth look at the basic biology of a fungus that is decimating bat colonies as it spreads across the US, researchers report that they can find little that might stop the organism from spreading further and persisting indefinitely in ...
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Late Summer Tomfoolery

21/09/2013 - King PotEmma, Tom and I spent a misty Autumn day bottomming King Pot. With vague intentions to look at the Middle Sump Bypass and the Grasshopper Series, we'd packed neoprene hoods. We made fairly serene progress through the early obstacle ...
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An Icelandic Adventure

Having run out of frozen meals, Kathryn and I decided to go to Iceland. Our main objective was the Laugavegur trail, which runs from the hot springs of Landmannalaugar to the glacial valley of Þórsmörk, with an optional extra day or two over the Fimmvörðuháls pass to Skógar. The route would take us past the  Eyjafjallajökull glacier, the scene of the 2010 eruption which disrupted flights across Europe. When it comes to words I am physically unable to pronounce, Icelandic is rivalled only by Welsh. Try saying Eyjafjallajökull three times backwards as fast as you can...
The geothermal pool at Landmannalaugar

Around Landmannalaugar

Our Nordic Odyssey began with a one night stay in Reykjavik. I was probably more excited than I needed to be about the slight sulphurous smell in the showers (the hot water is pumped straight out of the ground) - it was a sign of smells to come.

The following morning we took the coach to Landmannalaugar. The combination of a 4wd bus, unpaved roads, river crossings and views of the volcano Hekla kept our spirits high, despite the drizzle that had been persistently falling since our arrival.
River crossing at Landmannalaugar

We planned to spend the afternoon exploring the environs of Landmannalaugar before starting our trek the following morning. The best way of exploring the area is to lie in the natural geothermal pool for a couple of hours, relax, and occasionally swivel your head from side to side to take in a slightly different view. The thermal pool is created by almost boiling water from a hot spring meeting colder water. By moving relative to the hot inlet, and raising or lowering your body (there is quite a big vertical temperature gradient) fine temperature control can be achieved, with anything from "this bath is getting a little cool and we're out of hot water" to "ow, ow ow, I put my foot in the bath before I'd added any cold water" possible. The cold (perhaps 8°C) air temperature only served to enrich the experience!

To be fair, we also went for a stroll to a nearby water-filled volcanic crater. In fact it turned into a 10 mile march as we forgot that our map had a 1:100 000 scale.

 

Day 1: Landmannalaugar to Álftavatn

After a night disrupted by an astonishing display of snoring, our first, and longest, day took us 24km over a 1000m pass (where the Hrafntinnusker hut is found) and down to the hut at Álftavatn. An hour in, the drizzle started, and as we gained height it turned to sleet and then snow. Other than removing the view, it didn't detract from the day too much though - we were far too excited by the lava fields, fumaroles, sulphurous pools and bubbling hot springs to care. The landscape was vastly different to anytihng we had seen; mulitcoloured mountains and tephra/pumice everywhere. The highlight was probably heating up a boil-in-the-bag corned beef hash in a bubbling pool. The lowlight was our rye bread, carefully selected because we reckoned it would last us 5 days without going stale or mouldy. It doesn't go mouldy because it is so unpleasant that even fungi can't stomach it.

By the time we had descended to the level of Álftavatn, we were below the clouds once more, and arrived at the hut reasonably dry, after negotiating a river crossing via a dubiously balanced plank.
The view from the hut at Álftavatn

Day 2: Álftavatn to Emstrur

A much shorter day today, with spice added by two river crossings. The black ash of the lower hills was covered in vivid green moss, a huge contrast in atmosphere from yesterday. The rivers were about knee deep and negotiated hand in hand, wearing sandals, with rucksack straps undone. The water fell very firmly into the "so cold it hurts" category. After the river crossings, we traversed a vast desert-like plain of black ash, later christened 'Mordor' by fellow travellers in the hut at Emstrur.

As we arrived on the slopes above the hut, we caught our first glimpse of the vast Mýrdalsjökull ice cap (under which lies the volcano Katla), which would be a constant presence on our left for the next three days. We had arrived at the hut quite early, so had time for an afternoon walk to look down into the vertiginous Markarfljótsgljúfur canyon (doesn't that name just roll off your tongue).

 

Day 3: Emstrur to Þórsmörk

A day of nearly constant drizzle and and icy wind, with a particularly "fun" river crossing, which required de-trousering. By late afternoon, it had cleared up and the wide Þórsmörk valley was pleasantly lit up by the evening sun. Many of the people who had been in the same huts as us got the bus back the Reykjavik, their treks being over, but we still had two more days left.

 

Day 4: Þórsmörk to Fimmvörðuháls

This was the day when we most wanted good weather, and the Icelandic weather gods obliged. Beneath a sunny sky we traversed several kilometers across the Þórsmörk valley and began ascending the lushly vegetated slopes below the Fimmvörðuháls pass. As we gained height, the views became increasingly staggering. Behind us, and beyond the birch forests in Þórsmörk, we could see the black sand desert, vivid mossy green hills and the multicoloured volcanic mountains above Landmannalaugar, 50km to the north. The Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull ice caps extended to either side ahead of us. We approached the pass via a high level ice-rink-flat plain, where the top of a mountain appeared to have been cleanly chopped off, presumably by a glacier or an angry Nordic god with a scythe. On the far side of a ravine, another similar plain, extending to the Mýrdalsjökull, bore a river of melt-water down to a huge waterfall. And next to the waterfall lay what appeared to be a frozen "lava fall", with lava from the 2010 eruption still steaming.

We continued to climb, and soon entered the clouds once more. Our route now took us straight across the 2010 lava fields. At one point we noticed that the cold wind had suddenly warmed up, and the fog was actually steam. Plunging our hands into the volcanic ash for more than a couple of seconds was unbearably hot. This is from an eruption 3 years ago!
The view north east, climbing the Fimmvörðuháls pass
The Fimmvörðuháls hut was perched at the very top of the pass. The blustery wind toyed with us as it revealed tantalising views one moment, only to obscure them with cloud the next. This was possibly the best day's walking we had ever done.

 

Day 5: Fimmvörðuháls to Skógar

What a contrast to yesterday. The 50km visibility was more like 50m for the entire day. We expected to drop out of the clag as we descended to Skógar, but it was with us all the way and we got a thorough drenching! Nevertheless, there were some spectacular sights to see, as the route followed the Skógá river down a sequence of increasingly impressive waterfalls, culminating in the 70m Skógafoss. We had a few hours to spare in Skógar itself before our bus back to Reykjavik. We used the time constructively by sitting in a café, eating burgers and cake and feeling thoroughly chuffed with ourselves.

 

Random thoughts if you're planning on doing the trek

  • We spent 3 days walking from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk and 2 from Þórsmörk to Skógar. It would be entirely reasonable, if you are fit, to get to Þórsmörk in 2 days and then Skógar in a further day (although bus times would mean an early start in Þórsmörk or a night spent in Skógar).
  • Did I mention that the weather can be somewhat less than clement? The quality of the walk is so high that it doesn't really detract from the experience (other than spoiling the view a bit) but be prepared - we even had lunch in our bothy bag at one point!
  • We booked huts in April, by which time some were already full. The camping spots looked really good though, with the exception of Hrafntinnusker, where it was very rocky.
  • Finally, definitely definitely do the trip, it's amazing. Even if the weather is as shocking as it was for us!

We had a couple of days based in Reykjavik after our trek. The first day was spent doing a 'Golden Circle'  coach trip, to see the mighty waterfall Gullfoss and the Strokkur geyser at Geysir. Our final day was spent in Hveragerði, where the river Varmá is warmed by some very impressive hot springs. After initially scolding the soles of our feet, we found a lovely spot to lie in the shallow stream for an hour or so.
A muddy hot spring near Hveragerði

In summary, go to Iceland.
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    An Ogof Ffynnon Ddu Trip

    10/08/2013I'd only ever done through trips in OFD in the upstream direction, so it would be interesting to see how hard the route-finding for our planned downstream (OFD Top to OFD 1) trip would be today.Kathryn, Anya, Jess, Serena, Adrian, Olly and I ...
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