Monday 2 January 2023
Antony Butcher, Gavin Elsley and Jon Haynes
Sometime in the late 1990s, we (infamously) turned up late for a planned trip into Craig A Ffynnon (Gavin, Mark Cake, Laura and I). We got a bit lost trying to find where to park and our allocated leader had left by the time we arrived. Since this time 2 significant things have happened. Firstly, Gavin moved to Canada. Secondly, access to Craig A Ffynnon has become considerably easier. There is no longer a leadership system in place, keys are easy to come by and there is a wealth of useful information on this new fangled internet.
In the interim, a group of us had finally managed to get a trip down Craig A Ffynnon in January 2006 but we only did a comparatively short trip to the Hall of the Mountain King and out. To Gavin, however, the cave still eluded him.
I was driving back from Dartmoor on new years’ day to receive a very welcome invite from Antony and Gavin to come to South Wales the following day. Gavin (currently visiting UK), had jumped at his second chance to do this trip and had taken the precaution of an overnight stay in Abergavenny. Antony and I drove up in separate cars and joined him for a very nice breakfast in the Kings Head before setting off to the Clydach Gorge. We bumped into Tom Williams and Dave Gledhill from Brynmawr CC in the parking layby who were doing their own trip.
The old tramway path up to the entrance had a small stream flowing down it. The conditions generally underground were quite wet. There is a short section in the entrance series called Gasoline Alley which can flood you in but this was easily passable. Apparently the hydrology is such that it responds almost immediately to heavy rainfall on the surface, and then, after about an 8 hour delay there is a secondary flooding effect from water which enters the system from higher up on the mountain and appears later.
Thus followed a muddy but uneventful trip to Hall of the Mountain King, via the first boulder choke which had a steady flow of water coming down it. In the Hall we stopped to take some photographs.
Beyond the Hall, there is 250m of crawling which takes you to a resumption of the bigger stuff punctuated by a few boulder chokes. From the Severn Tunnel onwards, the cave is generally drier and has a proliferation of large crystals on top of the oolitic limestone walls which makes everything sparkle as you pass.
We dropped down the pitch (all fixed aids) and turned right to pursue the Promised Land until almost the end of this series where the passage takes a sharp bend to the right at some formations in pleasingly orange-coloured rock. On the left hand side of this passage there are some cross rifts which pass very near to Epocalypse Way in Daren Cilau.
In the process of taking the obligatory selfies, Antony wedged his helmet into a crack in order to light the pictures. After a short time, the helmet spontaneously released itself and dropped down to the floor of the passage, in the process, severing the wire connection in between the battery module and the lamp. In an astounding feat of determined ‘jury rigging’ Antony managed to get his light working again using a combination of teeth, bits of reclaimed insulating tape and a polythene bag. This was all the more impressive given that he also managed to sever an additional connection in the battery box during the mending of the initial breakage.
Somewhat cold after these endeavours (the Promised Land has a noticeably chilly draught in it), we returned to the pitch via a short detour to see the Pagoda formation. At the top of the pitch, we took the side passage into the very beautiful Helictite Passage before heading out.
We surfaced still in daylight after just short of 6 hours underground. We followed the description from http://www.ogof.org.uk/ogof-craig-a-ffynnon.html and it was very easy to follow (although a few paragraph breaks wouldn’t go a miss!).