Saturday, 29 April 2017
After two poorly timed nights of drinking, I woke with unparalleled enthusiasm. A slow start of looking at various coiled (un/incorrectly) labelled ropes and guessing their lengths began. The survey and description was printed on waterproof paper (works well against tea).
After picking up Joel and Tom, we drove round the back of the Black Mountain, parked near Foel Fawr and followed a marked path to Foel Fraith for 50 minutes. With the use of the GPS, the cave entrance was found behind a honeycomb limestone outcrop. From below, the entrance is obvious.
After a solid 30 minute discussion at the entrance, it was decided that we should go caving. At the first pitch head, Joel set about rigging on spits and Tom took the first opportunity to leave the drill behind. The description describes the top of the pitch as very awkward but bells out. In reality, you’re best down climbing to the right of the rope 2m on to a ledge where you can join the rope. The small chamber leads off into a flat out crawl to the Main Chamber. The climb down here is best to stay close to the left to avoid the calcited flow stone.
In the main chamber, the Old series leads off to the left and is apparently decorated in parts with an impressive aven. After 200m is ends in a choke.
Instead a steel gate in the floor gives way to the Break Through tube, a tight climb down and awkward climb up, but slopes to the second pitch.
The second pitch was more dubious looking, the doubled up scaff bars at the top flexed and moved around a lot and the spits looked shit and required blowing out. Joel complain for a long while and my imagination for the creative use of slings was broadened. It gets quite tight in the middle, but I was fine descending on a Simple. Anyone larger than tackle bag dimensions put their Stop on their cowtails, which I hadn’t seen before.
Another short crawl leads over a hole in the floor to stooping passage then a drop on the left to sandy floor passage. An impressive aven on the right is particularly relative. A choke on the right is Shatter Corner, left is onwards in rift passage to a superman maneuver up and over a boulder and a wet crawl after. I was made to go first to absorb all the water.
The Wishing Well pitch is spray-y with a dig at the bottom, half way along on the right is a slot to swing into. (Creates a bit of a rub on the way back out).
At 5 Ways chamber, the survey was helpful where the description was wanting. On the left in the floor is apparently the most direct route to Z chamber with a ‘wet crawl’ (nose to puddle) left Matt and Joel discussing methods of blasting the ceiling higher, but there’s strenuous alternative oxbows. From Z chamber, the description has loads of ‘to be confirmed’ details. We went straight ahead in the floor, heading for Ringing Chamber, a drippy spot with a wide flat slot leading to the head of the last pitch.
Here, the air was really blowing and we considered the scariness of dropping the pitch with the lack of anchors. A drill would have been brilliant here. However we were pretty shocked by the 3.5 hours it had taken us to get this far and decided to fuck off. Tom and I ran ahead, racing between some interesting oxbows between 5ways and Z chamber.
After failing to convince Joel into a tiny tiny squeeze, I fell back and derigged. Despite being ideal awkward pitches for rope walking, my pantin failed me and, thick with mud, wouldn’t let the rope through. It took about an hour to exit the cave, chasing the promise of tobacco and roast dinners. A fun trip, quite different to other South Wales caves I’ve been to. Thanks to Matt for driving, Joel for rigging and Tom for finding the cave.
Learning point: The cave is rigged for ladders. Do it on ladders.
Description and survey were found with a Google search on Ogof.org.uk (really good for surveys/descriptions/photos of SW caves)