Arun Paul, Dave Kirkpatrick, David Wilson, Ho Yan Jin, James Perry, Jennifer R, Laura Harrison, Lorna Watson, Louise Ranken, Peter Fenton, Peter Ganson, Rebecca Diss, Rita Borg, Stephanie Ford, Úna Barker, Zaeem Najeeb, Sam Holden, Armand Cadet, Shaheer Abdul Rahman, Ryan, Rishil Patel, Rhuarhri Cordon, Meera Gautami, Leia Chun, Joe Garvey, Ivan, Isobel Wood, Hugo Poissonnier, Henry, Frank Kong, Beat Zurbuchen, Angela
Everyone appeared to pack kit at 5 pm, some even earlier, as per usual. Interestingly we were far too organised and seeing as we had to wait for some to arrive at 6, we chilled in stores with increasing numbers of freshers sitting on kit-bag based seats. Rita was due to arrive at 6, so i ran to pee and we almost had a high speed collision when i was on my way back as rita also seemed in need of the loo. Terrifying. The journey was slow. There was an accident on the M4 that had us sat in stationary traffic for an hour and sent the freshers on a hunt for minibus alcohol. Two boxes of cider and one of perry were isolated.
We arrived at the SWCC around 1am to a rammed car park and a hut filled with Notts humans having a rather big head start on the drinking. As it was so late, we skipped the pasta cooking and went straight for drinking and socialising in the packed common room. Nothing overly wild happened but we were up til around 4am before staggering to our bunks for a much needed sleep.
Somehow we managed to make a drive to Wales take six hours. We couldn’t refind the M4 after Swindon. Nottingham were already drunk when we arrived, we swiftly joined them in lick and stick. Clothing was redistributed.
Peter, Stephanie and I travelled up in David’s car, leaving an hour after the minibus but reaching the SWCC hut half an hour earlier. Thanks to the headsup from the minibus, we managed to avoid the closure on the M4. Nearer the Swindon’s Tesco was also a roundabout closure that diverted us into a pub carpark where we were meant to do a U-turn back onto the road. We didn’t figure that out so ended up driving around the carpark, and having the cars following behind us was quite hilarious. At the hut, I got to meet the Imperial freshers and cavers from Nottingham University, and there was a lot of socialising (possibly too much for me).
We’d agreed to get up for breakfast cooking at 9 and everything went pretty smoothly although we may or may not have forgotten bacon. Dave definitely did not drive to the SPAR for emergency purchases. Notts were far more organised than us it seemed, basically already having had breakfast by the time we started cooking. Most of them were even in caving kit horrifically early. They did then proceed to faff for several hours so didn’t end up caving massively earlier than us anyway.
Breakfast was good, featuring the usual (minus sausages) plus cooked tomatoes, hash browns, double mushrooms, scrambled egg and orange juice! Yum. I eventually whipped out the red book and sorted people into groups. There were two in OFD2, one to Cwm Dwr and then I’d be leading a trip in OFD1. I’d been there twice before (although both were < 2 hour trips) and was keen to try and make the trip longer by going both in the streamway and on the higher route which i’d only heard rumours of. Dave came along too, as well as our freshers Beat, Hugo and Armand. We equipped ourselves with bagels and cowstails’ and we were off, getting into the cave around 12:30. On the way there we had an interesting discussion with the new owner of the land adjacent to the cave about access and were left confused but unfazed.
We took the main passage to the Toast Rack, ascending the fixed ladder and had a wander around a few side passages before making our way into the stream. Apparently my route is not the “usual” one as we don’t enter the streamway at The Step, but slightly downstream where there’s a nice way to slide down. I’m still unsure exactly what The Step looks like - something i’d like to change as it’s used to guage how high the water levels are. Luckily the levels were obviously low so we didn’t worry. We walked upstream, crossing the pots with fixed poles and managed to keep our underwear dry for the most part. The last time i was here, Jimmy and I had walked down to what i think is The Boulder Chamber and so we went back there and attempted to find our way to a higher level passage to make this a round trip. We ended up traversing on a fixed wire in a slightly different direction to what we’d hoped and realised we were in the Waterfall Series (i think), which was going in the wrong direction. What made all this navigation a bit tricky was that we were never sure which passages actually connected and which didn’t as they were all different colours (meaning different levels) and we’d seen that some connect and some don’t so not really sure how you know other than being told by humans.
We decided to turn back and climb up at Low’s Chain, a fixed electron ladder and rope that we thought may lead into the Rawl Series and (hopefully) connect us back to the streamway further downstream via the fixed wires in the higher traverse route. As we reached the ladder, we saw a group of Nottingham humans climbing down, featuring Peter and i think Alex who were shocked to see us coming from the other direction. Apparently going to the Boulder Chamber is not a normal thing to do? Meeting them here was nice though as it semi confirmed that this route connected, although we never actually asked which in hindsight would have been wise.
We climbed up and pushed on, going the most obvious way which was mainly just climbing up lots of boulders in a sort of spiral. We came across some interesting walls that were covered in very uniform white calcite lines that Dave had a very scientific name for. There were also some nice stals on the walls and things were generally pretty. We then reached a flat out sandy/muddy crawl which we went through - Beat and I rolling rather than crawling because we make the correct life choices. This was apparently Roly Poly Crawl so our rolling was obviously the right thing to be doing. At two points we reached quite tight scrotty crawls which we had doubts about but we valiantly sent Dave thorough them and he confirmed it was worth continuing as the passage opened up after a short while. Going through with the tackle sack was a bitch, especially when we popped out and realised there seemed to be a less grim route. Ah well. This may have been The Subway or that may have been later, it all sort of blurred in to one mass of walking and crawling through similar looking passage.
Eventually we reached a large chamber which we thought might be Pillar chamber, although after some inspection we noted no Pillars and Dave saw that the space was vaguely in the shape of the symbol for Pi. We were actually in Pi Chamber which made sense as the survey has some holes drawn in further down which correspond to the rather large gaps in the floor of the passage before, apparently called Bridge Passage. Based on this, we decided we should be looking for a passage in the left wall which we searched and searched for to no avail. It was getting to the time we had said we’d turn around if we hadn’t found a connection to the streamway so it was looking like we would have to exit the way we’d come in and skip out the wires altogether, sad.
But wait, aha! We realised that the passage we were looking for wasn’t to the left but actually under us facing the way we came. After this revelation, Dave had a poke around and found an interesting hole and apparently we’d need to be guided in order to get down. I wasn’t sure if this was him saying i was about to be terrified by a big hole and need reassurance for my mental state or if we’d literally just need to have our feet guided to find the ledges. Thankfully it was the latter and there was no scary hole awaiting us when we got down. The passage below appears to be called Helter Skelter which is fitting as we basically just slid down most of the way in a spiral. We finally reached some fixed wires and knew for sure we were getting to where we wanted to be - woop!
The first section took us over a big hole in the floor and then there was a lot of traversing high above the streamway which was pretty cool. Some people do these traverses without cowstails which sounds horrific. I like not falling down big holes. We eventually got to a section where we had to insert ourselves through a gap under a boulder and pop out the other side. I had a lot of comments like “watch your left foot, there’s a drop there” from the freshers which was mildly terrifying but there was a lot of your body on the ledge so it was fine. There was also a metal bar there that you could stand on when you got to the other side so it was all very pleasant.
Some more things probably occurred, including some excellent slides that could have happened earlier but i forget, before we reached Maypole Chain. We climbed down and rejoined the streamway, walking downstream to make our way out. We passed the point we had entered on the way in and took the first right which lead us up a white calcite-ey crawl and eventually we popped out near the Toast Rack. We made our way out and were back at the SWCC at a respectable time (i forget what this was).
We had a different plan for dinner to the usual tomato and paprika based feast - a roasted veg and potato thingy with tomatoes and chickpeas and a tonne of coriander seeds. The kitchen was hectic. The ovens were interesting but they worked and we somehow ended up being ready to serve at exactly the same time as the Nottingham crew. Boy was that a busy dining room. The more terrified of us relocated to the outside benches and ate our dinner in the dark and quiet. As is the natural order of things, we eventually got the masses together to play Pot and Sling. We attempted to mix the groups a bit so we ended up being without our usual partners. I was with Laura from NUCC and we did pretty well until she disappeared for more important hair straightening things. Our freshers didn’t seem super keen and we moved onto other games fairly quickly. Time passed and a group of us eventually ended up in the dining room playing the drunken Jenga game which involved a lot of chin licking, clothes swaps and strip traverses. The night ended slightly earlier than the Friday (what?!) and we were briefly locked out of our bunk room but saved by two very drunk ICCC freshers who knew the code and kept referencing a battle which we apparently should have known about.
Cwm Dwr: Ho Yan Jin, Jennifer R, Stephanie Ford, Zaeem Najeeb
Dragged myself out of bed and discovered that Nottingham were somehow finishing up breakfast, they looked much less dead that I felt. We had to beg off them how to turn the ovens on to cook the hash browns. Dave saved the day by going out to get bacon, he shall be worshipped as a hero. Diss got the trips sorted and eek I ended up with Yan Jin leading in Cwm Dwr. My dear favourite cave but I very much felt like I didn’t have anyone to hide behind. I calmed myself down by carrying around far too many krabs and my cowstails. I have no idea why I brought the cowstails.
Walked the lovely short walk to the cave, had Zaeem and Stephanie with us. Had by some miracle convinced people they wanted to do forty minutes crawling. I then proved my competency as was unable to lock the padlock back on, Yan Jin saved us. I hadn’t spoken much of the entrance and they seemed rather happy to chuck themselves into the concrete tube. The typical lights off and sit in the dark happened, I like doing at the start of a trip as it lets my eyes adjust. As my light seemed to yet again to be struggling this was needed. I like seeing colour. We surged onwards, the climb onto the diagonal pole was found scary, I have a suspicion that I may not do it the easiest way. Made good pace through the crawl, think Yan Jin was hating the tackle sac through. Got out of that bit and encouraged people to poke their heads at the sump. Took the climb up and enjoyed the pretties, most don’t really compare to OFD II but one high section is just dripping in white calcite. It is rather stunning, just a shame it’s hard to see most of it. Reached the boulder choke, it went fine.
Entered the big shacks, discovered there were two ways out the end of choke as I was climbing over the big boulders and Yan Jin was below and to the left. This whole cave is such a maze. My only goal was to get to the smithy and the sand banks, I have previously been given the advice of pick a route and go for it, about all the direction I managed from the survey was to turn right. We picked the nicest right turn we could find. It has some interesting turns to remember including one that was like the second exit of a roundabout. At some point there was a short climb up with conservation tape on the left, had a length of (dynamic?) rope hanging down an interesting looking climb. Maybe the way to the higher levels? At another time I would have been very tempted but none of the others looked even remotely into it. Headed back down and took the left turn, there was a T junction and I decided to pretend we were where I wanted to be despite not having any clue so we went right. The passage led to a traverse curving left, it looked friendly enough so we did it. Went for walking passage whenever we could and ended up in a big boulder filled chamber, I had a suspicion that it dropped down but lived in hope it was a slope. It was very much not a slope. Between me and Yan Jin we found a way that zigged down on the far wall. It looked vaguely polished and no worse than some of the other climbs. Yan Jin led down and then found another hole that lead to streamway? In hindsight it looked like there was no current. I joined and then decided to try the climb down to the water. I forgot to take the tackle sac off straight away so took another try. It was honestly a bit terrible, part of it overhung and the end was just wedge it. I vetoed anyone following me as I remember people falling down the climb at Edward’s shortcut and noticed that the water ahead was rather deeper than I liked. Hauled myself back up and we had lunch.
Yan Jin led out with very occasional corrections, we get back to the T junction and went for an explore the other way. It was pretty and good fun, played a brief bit of the floor is lava and then found a rather large hole that probably could be traversed but nah uh not for me. I did wonder if at any point we had been in the passage below the hole. We went back to the big shacks and had more explores, I burst out laughing when, by following Yan Jin and Zaeem in crawls by finding walking passage with Stephanie that connected, we ended up back above the choke exit. We were in a nearly exactly the same positions we had been when we entered. We carried on exploring and Stephanie found a hole in big shacks 2 that let you see some rather stunning pretties. I called time and Yan Jin led out the boulder choke. I was annoyed by the tackle sac and just yelled some directions at her without really thinking when we got confused. I have no idea if those directions helped as we ended up leaving the choke above the hole in the floor I was expecting. Turns out there are multiple ways through.
Had another explore before the crawl as I wanted a longer trip and everyone seemed happy. We went to the sandy crawl the the left (when exiting) of the climb of the main route. It was a lot of crawling but good fun, it took a while for me to have the sense to leave the tackle sac. Cool stuff was found, a big stal and the broken pieces of another one next to a loose hole that had a squeeze, I tried twice but ended up deciding that unless I knew it opened out again after then I wouldn’t commit myself. Turned a different way and I noticed that the still water next to me had white calcite in. A closer look showed some tiny crystals on top of some of the pools and white layer on top of the others. Very beautiful. It seemed the right time to leave so we did, grabbing some photos on the way. I really can’t be bothered to write the non-caving parts as I know Diss will do it better. Suffice it to say that Gin-ifer came out (Arun’s fault), Diss’s callsign got changed on account of her breaking her trousers by being so desperate to pee and clothing got swapped around yet again.
We started making breakfast at 9am, only to realise that we forgot to buy bacon (gasps), but Dave saved the day by making an emergency drive out. Jennifer and I went down Cwm Dwr, recruiting Zaeem and Stephanie who seemed keen on crawling. Jennifer, having gone down this cave many times (this was my first here), told me how weird and possibly scary the entrance is and that we should just let the other two find out. It was a nice and warm 5 min walk to the cave. As we went down the entrance shaft that involved feeling for footholds and wedging yourself along the descent, Zaeem asked if this was a normal entrance, to which we laughed and said no. It followed a climb down that marked the start of the crawls which took us something like 40 mins to get through. The crawls were varied in height but committing (Dim Dwr had a flat out crawl that was mildly annoying but bearable with a tackle sack), and had interesting bits where rotating your body was required. We eventually reached the boulder choke and then Big Shacks.
At some point we no longer knew where we were, and I went down a climb that dropped into a streamway which Jennifer then went in waist deep and declared that that wasn’t the way on. We figured we didn’t have time to find Sand Banks, so spent some time poking around. We found a nice rift and played the floor is lava while traversing. There was also a hole that I didn’t expect to be that deep until I dropped a rock down and there was a noticeable delay before it reached the bottom. In poking around, I accidentally found the boulder choke (back where we wanted to go) which was a pleasant surprise. I attempted to lead the way out and finding the path that looked the most polish and least grim worked quite well. We took a lovely short walk back to the hut and I hydrated myself with my 4th cup of tea for the day.
We had some form of roast vegetables and potatoes with tomato for dinner and played some caving games after. David and I failed miserably at Pot and Sling when we lost balance, and I once again dropped Arun while attempting Human Traverse. At some point in the night, people broke into different groups – The Notts freshers seem to have all gone to bed, the Imperial freshers played drinking games and a few got quite drunk (one of them took Notts’ minibus keys and caused much panic the next morning), and some seniors played a modified version of jenga that I’ll spare you the details of. I took a nice walk out and it was beautiful looking at the sky full of stars.
This was a very normal morning. No minibus keys were temporarily stolen and no nighttime bunkroom accidents occurred (sorry Notts!).
Today was treasure hunt day! Rita (Treasure Hunt Officer For Life) had planned an interesting set of clues and challenges for our freshers to find around OFD2. We roped some of the NUCC crew into it too and there ended up being four groups in the cave. It was a nice change to the usual structure of a trip down OFD and i think most people had a lot of fun. Thanks to Laura and Joe for going back in to get the final clue! All in all a manic but fun weekend!
OFD 1: David Wilson, Jennifer R, Sam Holden, Leia Chun, Isobel Wood
Arun, Davey and I didn’t fancy the treasure hunt, our original plans of something truly awful got thwarted by some freshers not wanting to either. Dragging them through rivers of shit seemed a good way to scare them off. OFD I was decided as the cave of the day and as I was the only one to know where the entrance was we headed down together. We then split into smaller groups upon entering as they only gave us one key.
Got to toast rack and Pluto’s bath, Davey tried the traverse over, successfully got over and then was told that we were going the other way, was not the most impressed. Went up the ladder to the toast rack, rounded the corner and saw another group. As we had split into smaller groups this caused no running down the passage at all. My light was dim so I probably wasn’t obvious.
We went the alternative route, the hole to the side of Pluto’s bath and entered the streamway. We then traipsed up and down exploring for a bit whilst trying a few climbs up to see if we could find the other way into the streamway. We went upstream after a while. It a very fun streamway, pretty, nice and splashy. The poles over the pots are good fun, Arun showed off by doing it with hands free. Nope water is far too scary for that. We got to the sump, appreciated the sumpiness of it then turned around.
On the way out we went up the Maypole chain, it seemed far too crawly for our bimble so we quickly dropped back into the streamway. Davey and Arun managed to sell the idea of swimming across the bath far too well so only Leia joined me on the dry route. After doing that I then waded in from the other side to see depth. Reached about chest deep and was very cold. No one took my offer of swimming with their light off for a photo however Davey did jump back in for a photo, sadly he proceeded to jump out of frame. Few more photos then went back into daylight.
On Sunday, Rita organised a treasure hunt in OFD 2, and I was with 4 people from Notts. Interestingly, Notts like to get changed into kit, faff around for a few hours and then start caving, while imperial likes to faff around, get changed and then cave. Laura could read surveys well but haven’t been in OFD 2 in a year, while I was just there 2 weeks ago but am terrible at map reading. The combination proved to be entertaining when we got lost within the first 10 mins while trying to find Big Chamber, and it didn’t help that the survey didn’t include many side passages that we wrongly took. We eventually saw other groups and found our way to Gnome Passage. At some point, Loura asked Laura if she’s happy and Rory said “deep down, no one’s truly happy right?” and Laura said “Well, I’m happy when I’m deep down”. The clues were very creative and the challenges like miming things in the cave were fun. Unfortunately, we went through Gnome Passage three times which got a little boring, and didn’t manage to find Corkscrew (turns out the hole that didn’t look too pleasant was the right path). Nonetheless, it was a chill Sunday cave that was highly needed given my lack of adequate sleep and the knee and elbow bruises from crawling in Cwm Dwr.
We packed and cleaned up and begun the much shorter drive back, with banging tunes from Diss’ playlist of spite to keep us company (and to keep David awake).