Uppies: David Cooke, Lawrence Wilson, Richard Nurse, Seán Tidey, Will Puddy
Downies: Andy Sparrow, Danny Burnett, Judi Durber, Ken Passant, Yvette Jordan
The day started with a typically drizzly and misty 9am meet at Asda, Merthyr Tydfil to fuel up with cooked breakfasts and for last minute planning.
Over breakfast, two teams, the Uppies (going from OFD1-2) and the Downies (2-1) were created along with a plan of where to meet and where to rig and leave ropes. We then set off in a four-car convoy for the 40ish minute drive to the South Wales Caving Club.
We were not expecting to have access to the hut (other than to collect cave keys) so were expecting to have to get changed in the rain, but fortunately, as there was another team already down the cave, the hut was open so were able to get changed in the dry. At about 11.40 we left the hut, the Uppies heading down the road, the Downies across the moor.
The following is a description of the Uppies trip, apologies if I miss some bits or get it in the wrong order, there was a lot to remember.
After walking down the road (in the knowledge we would not have to slog up it when finished, unlike the Downies) and turning off onto the path to the bottom entrance we entered OFD1 via a couple of in-situ ladders at 12pm on the nose. Led by Cookie we were instantly into a streamway, with a surprising (compared to Mendip caves) amount of water in. Being the Uppies, we followed the water upstream quickly reaching our first junction. Cookie, Lawrence and Seán took the dry route, leaving the streamway for a bit and Will and Rich carried on up the stream.
Three of us reached The Step back into the stream. Here if the water is over your knees stood in the stream by The Step, it’s generally accepted that it’s going to be too high and you should turn back but the water was below, at a perfect level. We carried on a few yards to an in-situ chain leading somewhere, expecting to see Will and Rich but no sign. For the next 10 minutes Cookie went downstream looking for them and Seán went up. We were eventually reunited; they were upstream having moved faster than we expected.
We continued as a group of five, up a beautiful streamway but never with the water much above our wellies as all the deep pools had scaffold bars across to help keep you dry as long as possible.
After a while, we left the stream and reached the boulder choke, caused by the roof collapsing it looked like, in a large chamber. Cookie led us through here with only a limited amount of “exploring”.
Once through the boulder choke, we were in a long dry, complicated section of the cave. Using the survey, we did a bit of exploring and eventually found our way to the Letterbox, a rectangular shaped hole high up in the wall. Climbing up and lowering ourselves in feet first, we carried on heading towards the Divers Pitch.
We spotted the waterfall of the Divers Pitch from a window high up on the opposite side, unsure of how to get to the head of the pitch we headed off in vaguely the right direction through a series of small winding downhill passages until Cookie found the one. A horrible, long, straight, uphill, thruxy crawl littered with the remains of bits of knee pad and caving suit to the top of the Divers Pitch. Here, after catching our breath, we had a refreshing drink from the top of the waterfall and set up our rope (and left it there for the Downies to recover) next to the chunky in-situ rope.
Once we all made it down, we had a 5-minute snack break and continued on through some impressive passage. After a few minutes, we met the Downies at Piccadilly. After a quick chat and catch up we parted ways and were soon back into the main streamway.
The stream was in an incredibly high passage, with torch light barely making it to the top. As we trekked up stream, we had to pass numerous round pools, unlike the start there was no scaffold bars over these. Some were shallow and you could see the bottom, others were over 6ft deep and the only way across them was to get in and swim it! As we continued upstream getting wetter and wetter the nature of the stream way changed from a waterslide to a narrow, deep rift of a stream running in and under the floor.
We eventually left the stream and found our way into a long, tight winding passage, exactly the right size to stand and walk along, just.
Out of nowhere we spotted a rope hanging from a hole in the ceiling. This was Maypole Inlet and the rope was used by the Downies to get down to the winding passage. If the rope were not there, then we would have probably gone straight past the exit.
After (even with the rope), a strenuous climb up and out of Maypole Inlet we ended up at the Crossroads, a big junction of now very sandy passages. Here we did a bit of exploring, Cookie needing to get his camera out to have a look at the survey. After trying out a few passages we found the correct route and headed off to find the very impressive Trident (massive three-pronged stalactite) and the Judge (big lump of a stalagmite).
From here, we carried on to the Brickyard, a section of cave that looked very similar to Box Mine with perfect vertical and horizontal faults / cracks making everything look man made, very different to the rest of the cave.
Not long after the Brickyard we found the OFD2 exit / entrance and exited the cave at 6pm. A short walk down an old tramway took us back to the SWCC hut where the Downies, who finished about 30mins before us had just finished getting changed.
After getting changed, returning keys to their box and packing cars we headed to the closest pub for a debrief that included that well known Welsh drink mango cider.
A fab time was had by all. Thanks to Lawrence, Andy & Cookie for leading and organising.
Back in Cheddar by 9pm.