This is my first SUSS trip report – apologies for the lack of photos, and length!
My plan was to set of on the Friday morning to head down to the SWCC cottage, get an afternoon of caving in with Mark S (YUCPC) and Ellie before waiting for everyone else to turn up. That didn’t really happen, it took an age to get to the cottages, and once we got there, only me and Mark fancied a trip.
At about 8 pm we headed up to Top entrance for a quick round trip and to look for a passage ‘Pete’s Pretties’. We headed down Gnome passage and Edwards’s shortcut to try and find this supposedly nice looking passage, knowing that one side was an ‘ok’ climb, and one side was not to be tried. We got to one side, and assessed the situation. The climb was exposed but ‘probably ok’ in true Welsh style. Not knowing which side was the bad side we thought we’d take a look at the other side of this passage just in case we were being silly. We headed down to Shatter Pillar, and half way down to Moonlight chamber before remembering we’d been before and that it wasn’t very impressive, especially when factoring in the rising hunger levels. We were also incredibly warm (and sweaty), so decided to take off as many layers as possible before we’d start scratching skin. The rest of the cave we did with oversuits round waists and undersuits unzipped – much more pleasant! Back to shatter pillar and through Selenite tunnel (still one of my favorite passages in OFD II) we got to the crossroads and then up to the other side of this passage. When we got there we realised that this East side was the bad side, I wouldn’t attempt it in a million years! Oops! We should have tried the West side when we were there, so perhaps I’ll return next time I’m in Wales to see Pete’s pretty passage ;). Now we were really hungry and had garlic bread cravings so headed out Salubrious, which was more fun with the high water levels, making sure to pop over to the Trident too. I mean, it’d be rude not to go see the largest Stalagmite in the UK when only a few meters away! Up the corkscrew, and out we went. We were underground for around 1.5 hours and probably looked like we’d been in a sauna so were thankful for the cold wind outside. We were even more thankful that Ellie had made us spag bol, nom nom nom. We ate our dinner whilst talking to an SWCC member about soft formations and general cave conservation – I learnt how Helicites were formed. The other 3 cars of people turned up around midnight, so we had some social time with them and with the Southampton club before sleepy time 🙂
Saturday morning, I was a little bit disappointed as Mark and myself wanted to go pull through Pendulum passage or to go up into the Fault Aven series, but due to the weather those trips were a no go! So, we all walked up to Top entrance together, with most people doing the trip we’d done the night before minus Mark, Edd and myself who tootled off to play in OFD III. We raced through the system, using what I imagine is the standard route, climbing down into Arete Chamber, getting a bit wet in the process, off towards Bagpie Chamber, but breaking off to get to Timo’s table, down Poached Egg Passage, and then following out noses, past a very nice crystal pool (a bit cleaner than the one seen on the Top trip the previous night) and before we knew it we were at the Crevasse. I’d been as far as here before, but not down the ladder pitch which consisted of plenty of oversuit snaggage befores starting into the notorious III. The first part of this section of cave is just a bit bouldery, clambering with a few climby bits, finishing in a section called the Shambles. Then the traverses start. I’d heard a lot about them, quite a lot of which insinuated I’d struggle because I’m somewhat ‘vertically challenged’, but having done them before Mark was sure I’d be fine, and I really wanted to go to see more of the system. The first parts are fairly wide, and I’m not too sure I could have comfortably bridged much wider a gap. That said, the ledges for your feet are reasonably decent for Wales, almost luxury in fact as there are ledges BOTH sides. The trickiest bit about these are the climbs in and out of the traverses and the changing of levels on the traverses themselves – plus the fact if you look down, you realise you have a long way to fall, it probably wouldn’t be okay if you fell. Scary stuffs! We were getting through the traverses steadily I thought, I was quite nervous though, so was using a lot of energy and using a lot of arm strength. There was one dodgy part where me and Edd felt a little unsure, probably not helped by the fact Mark couldn’t remember being at this section. It was a traverse where you have to climb down 2 m (ish) to a lower level, with a ledge on one side, and a calcite flowstone section on the other – meaning only one side was fair game for feet! The climb down didn’t look so great; there didn’t seem to be any footholds to the ledge. Mark gave it a go first, followed by Edd, then myself. Turns out there are footholds, just hidden well 😛 We climbed back out of this section on the other side, I took a few big breaths and carried on. Soon we got to the Maypole bridge (a bit of scaff over a drop), shuffled/balanced along to a false floor on the other side. Scampered across this and then got to some more boulders, headed into an oxbow and got to First Waterfall. This was the aim of the trip. I was feeling quite happy having done the traverses and in getting to this point, but still had the traverses in reserve (reverse traverse lol) to get through, hence I scoffed my flapjack. Again, nom, nom, nom.
On our way out we met two SWCC members, it struck us that passing people in this area of the system had to be pretty rare. It’s one of the more remote areas of the system, and it definitely felt it. The pretties here had to be seen less often than in the trade routes in 2, almost making them more pretty to me, and every bit of caving feeling a little more satisfying. The reverse traverses went well on the way out, although some of the climbs were definitely trickier in this direction. Before I knew it we were back at the bottom of the ladder pitch, Edd headed up first, followed by me. Then Edd rigged the SWCC ladder for the team we passed, involving leaving Mark at he bottom of the pitch with no ladder for a while, giving a repotoire of wonderful jokes from Edd. Edd and myself had a lovely bonding session whilst he re-rigged, finished with my watch breaking, popping off my wrist and hitting him in the head. Oh well, cavers can’t be too nice for too long. I also kindly left the ladder coiling for Mark to do, as I knew it was his favourite thing to do, ever. We headed up the handline out of the Cravasse and sat on a ledge eating jelly before popping back out the same route. We let Edd lead the way out, he remembered the way pretty well, only a little bit fuzzy around Poached Egg Passage – but that’s okay, there is a lot of passage in this section! We got to Top entrance to find that after 5 and a half hours caving we were the last out, we thought the other guys might have had a bit more of an explore of the system! I was quietly happy with my caving achievements of the day – but did think that the traverses are a tad over-hyped, I didn’t need to be so nervous and use so much energy. We raced down the hill in the fog to get to the cottages, back in the changing room I met the lady we’d passed in 3, she said I looked like I had a cold – I felt like it too! Ooops. Edd to cooked a delicious meal for us all whilst we played scrabble and made a fire by commitee (grr).
After dinner some of us played Carcasonne and took great pleasure in destroying Edd (hehe) whilst the rest of the club there and Southhampton drank in the fire room. After a while we had various defectors come visit us in the dining room, and tell us stories involving a Bovril jar(!). Dave had apparently demonstrated to the room how he could fit his ‘man parts’ into said jar, and then encouraged other men in the room to do the same. I’m not too sure there were many takers, and in the process of forcing/strongly encouraging Jethro to have a go, the Bovril jar broke. Take from that what you like. Dave then spent the rest of the night asking how big everyone’s parts were. Drunk Dave is funny.
I was rudely awoken Sunday morning by Sam G falling of the middle bunk, onto his head, pleading for me to free him. I took pity and untangled him from the bunk/floor, only for Dave to re-open his line of questioning from the previous evening, and carry on his probing. I felt quite ill, with a streaming nose (pleasant I know), conscious that I had a 4 + hour drive home, and having already done 2 trips on the weekend, decided to not cave. Bit of a shame as we had a Great Oxbow round trip half planned (which are the REALLY bad traverses of the system, as if I couldn’t get enough already). There were quick 2 trips in Cwm Dwr, 1 quick trip in Top whilst I cleaned various places around the hut and admired the SWCC children’s christmas biscuits!
Back in Sheffield we had chinese and watched the Matrix before I collapsed in bed ready for a Monday morning at work!
Awesome weekend in my favourite caving region and system 🙂