So this last weekend heralded the final SUSS weekend (in Britain) before everyone gets bogged down with revision and deadlines and the sort.
A good number of 21 members descended on the Croyden Caving Hut in South Wales which all made for good company and overall, a fun weekend. The Friday night was met with typical drunken merriment which went on till the early hours as we all laughed and talked our way through the night. I think there was only one fight that night between James and Adelaide, cannot say who won but it was a rubbish attempt at fighting none the less.
Saturday morning greeted me well and I sat outside with the others basking in the warm glow of the morning sun. I heard mutterings of a trip to OFD 1 – top entrance (OFD 2) just no one knew the way. I fortunately did and was keen on the trip so that was the day sorted. The team for Saturday was to be myself, Craig Hamer, Liam Overett, Olly Hall and Mark Holdcroft. We got our gear together and were soon on our way to the SWCC.
We were ready and making our way to the entrance of OFD 1, arriving there at approximately 1pm. Helmets placed on heads, lights turned on, entrance unlocked and we were soon heading underground. Not a couple of minutes in and I noticed the key was slipping out of my inner pocket in my oversuit as it has now managed to rip through and so carefully avoiding a scenario where it may be lost, I handed it to Olly who had a pocket in far better condition. We meandered through the various Oxbow’s before then arriving down into the main streamway. Water levels were particularly low, to the point where we couldn’t do the natural slide in the stream. But, it appears to have been a dry year so far so most caves have really low water levels. Hopefully get some rain soon!
Quickly up the streamway we went, passing beneath a group who was on the traverse high above us, greetings were exchanged and then on the way we went. Quickly arriving up to the boulder choke and see-saw rock in 20 minutes meant good progress and that I hadn’t gotten everyone lost yet. Yay! But the hardest bit to remember was probably beyond the boulder choke, which we all managed with ease. The way on beyond the boulder choke is a bit difficult to navigate so I had to stop and think before going on. Sometimes I wasn’t confident but would soon find a minute later that I was right anyway. I just need to trust my judgement more. One thing I kept in mind was what Rob Middleton told me, which was to follow the dark, polished limestone. This helped me greatly. There is a small passage which has some beautiful formations in. They appear to be stalactites but I believe they have a coating of salt crystals on them. Beautiful.
After various points which made me scratch my head as I tried to remember the way on, we reached the letterbox. My last visit I attempted it head first and nearly slipped out however this time I did it the normal way of feet first which was much better. This is the start of low crawling sections which lasts ~5 minutes and like before, following the polished sections helped me out here. We were soon at the top of the free-climb which we all attempted without the use of a handline. It is a sketchy bit so I recommend at least taking one with, just in case.
Everyone managed it down with a moderate amount of ease and then we came across Sioned down at the bottom, said hello had some snacks before heading to the streamway. This was the fun bit jumping into all the pot holes and not being able to touch the bottom, it fascinates me that currents can be that strong to form these. There is a section of the streamway where the mineral veins come down the centre and appear to bleed out of the wall ahead of you, making it look, spectacular and again, really quite fascinating.
Liam and Olly were going through making seal noises which when it reached me sounded like screams, then followed by a huge splash. Which worried me the first couple of times and then I got used to it. I still stayed alert incase one of them did genuinely hurt themselves though. But they were having fun and so was it didn’t really bother me. We were at the end of the great oxbow after about 2 hours in the cave, so good progress was made, probably one of the best timings I have had so far.
Back in the streamway and we were soon climbing back out and up maypole inlet. This was done with ease until the climb up the boulders at the end, which I always find quite sketchy and precarious. But as long as care is taken, it is fine.
Managing to get remember all that way without getting lost made me feel a little pleased, but there was still the rest of OFD 2 to get through, which is where went a bit wrong.
I remembered the way on for quite a bit but then followed a section that made me go a bit disoriented. It was at a large cross rift, we were in a passage and I went ahead to see if there was a way on. It didn’t appear so (it later turned out we could go that way) and I went back to the others. We then went another way I wasn’t sure about and went in a circle as it was an oxbow to the previous passage. Getting annoyed I retraced my footsteps and realised the passage was just at the opposite side of the cross rift, goddamn!
We got to the Big Chamber Near The Entrance from which I was familiar with and then ended up getting lost a bit as we went down the wrong passage. Retraced footsteps, went the right way. Got lost in a chamber that looked similar to the one by the exit, before then finally finding the way out. It really annoyed me because from where I initially went wrong, we were probably 15/20 minutes from the exit and I knew we were. I’m just thankful I was quick at realising where we had gotten lost.
So, a really good trip overall. I always love doing it, a bit wet at times and some would recommend a wetsuit but I did it in a onesie and over suit and was just fine, despite submerging myself in every pot I could find.
10/10 would cave again.
Late on Saturday me and michael had a little venture to have a look at the entrance to Porth Yr Ogof, which slightly spooked us as bats were flying about and we didn’t want to get hit. It is a really pretty sight at night though. So, I arranged a trip with myself, Tom Smith, Olly Hall and Issam Ami for the Sunday.
It was a bit of a late start for Sunday, but we donned our wetsuits and was heading to the cave in the warm sunshine. We had a little jump in the pools of water in front of the entrance whilst waiting for Issam. There wasn’t a big flow of water in the main river due to how dry it was.
We had a little gander round the various passages shooting off in the main entrance chamber which involved a refreshing duck in one section. Found a little through trip through a large bit of rock in the entrance before continuing downstream.
Not more to this description but it was a fun little trip, was colder and wetter than I anticipated but that didn’t phase me. There was a random person camping quite a way in, but didn’t wander to see but I assume it was close to the random 15 entrances the cave has.
I was a bit nervous when approaching the resurgence due to the cave’s reputation but due to low water conditions, the current wasn’t noticeable. I did lend a thought to those who have unfortunately lost their life at the same spot and then was thankful to have made it out alive.
5/10. An interesting, fun and short trip but not much more to it. Would do again if needs be, but I can say I have done it now.
Some other members were doing the waterfalls trail and we met them as we emerged, which was good timing. So we decided to tag along and do some scrambling. It is a lovely walk with some great views of the waterfalls, even better when you get to jump off some of them. I love canyoning when I get the chance to do it, even on this scale. There was a large rope swing which kept us entertained for a good hour before heading to the third and final waterfall to jump off.
It’s height was comparable to garlands in Giants with a couple of metres added on. The first jump was quite easy, I didn’t think much about it but the second jump which was a bit higher did scare me a lot. However fear kicked in as I jumped in the air so I couldn’t really do much about it other than stick my hand out and give the water a big high five. Owchy.
A great day was had exhausting myself but had so much fun. Emotions were dampened a little when we arrived at the car to find stuff had been stolen but that has all been found with thanks to Issam’s tablet for saving the day! I was left without any clothing which added some humour but thanks to Jam for shoes, Liam for the trousers and Olly for the jumper (which did confuse the police when I had to give my name).
Overall, a really good weekend with good memories made. Makes me cherish how much love I have for the club. Apologies for the length, I wish I could write my dissertation this quick!