Arun Paul, Dave Kirkpatrick, David Wilson, Jack Halliday, Jacob Puhalo-Smith, James Perry, Jennifer R, Louise Ranken, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers, Úna Barker, Lucie Studena
We arrive to find some NUCCs playing with fire outside the hut. No chickens present, foul play suspected.
My second trip into Draenen, after my first with the NPC. This time I was keen to try and get a bit further so of course I set my sights on War of The Worlds. We had a keen crack team, and a rollercoaster of a description spanning 69 pages, crammed with sizzling routes. Nothing could stop us.
A false start in the morning after we forgot the key but that was no real set back. Parked up on the strange abandoned concrete foundations. Meandered over the road and down the steep hill to entrance.
I had forgotten how grim the entrance to Draenen is. A low damp, drippy crawl into a tight climb. The stream appears to have been deliberately diverted into the climb so it’s impossible to avoid a soaking. This time the team was relatively short of back so we were quicker through the entrance than I had been with the NPC, and it was not long before we were down the beautiful cascades, the roped climb, and then at Cairn Junction.
I elected to go via Wonderbra, though not exactly the same route as last time. All the routes seem to lead to Tea Junction anyway. Draenen is quite surreal with its vast tubes tunnelling through the hill. A very different sort of caving to normal.
By the time we got to Lamb and Fox chamber, Davey and Jack were basically caving in their pants. Some vestiges of civilised modesty meant Diss and Louise were only down oversuits, and I, efficient caver that I am, was almost chilly still fully velcro’d up.
I remembered just in time that cowstails were preferable for the traverses in Indiana Highway, and by just in time I mean far too late. The cleverer humans had brought theirs just in case, but I made do with a borrowed sling. Davey was leading, and echoey shouts came of terrifying abysses. These turned out to be exagerations and mostly 'It was fine'. This did not stop Davey shouting about it though. At one point he warned us of 'a slippery bit between his legs'. Now that's terrifying.
Megadrive blurred past and we were soon at the furthest point I had been, just before the Nunnery. We were in good shape so we carried on into one of the very few crawls. It is not long though and soon you are in walking passage once more.
We met some cave spirits wandering round here. They must be spirits because they claimed to have come from a different entrance but of course everyone knows there is only one entrance to Draenen. They seemed lost but happy. One of them attempted to describe to us the passage we had just come from, without realising that this was quite unnecessary. This one went to look down the passage, and remerged a minute later saying something like “Ah, it’s nothing more than a forest crawl”. We still have not deciphered this.
We bade farewell to the friendly spooks and continued on our way, popping out in the large Fault Chamber. More big passage and we arrived at our only route finding difficulty of the trip. The way on from Elliptic passage into the Lucky Thirteen series is a small hole in the wall on top of a boulder choke. Beyond is a small chamber with a ‘someones shit dig’ style crawl leading off. Used to easy walking passage as we were, we initially wrote this off as ridiculous and spent ten minutes looking for an alternative. Eventually I tried this crawl and it quickly became obvious that it was the way.
Onwards we got to big Beauty Junction where the passage once again opened out. This petered out after a few hundred meters and became a series of well decorated chambers joined with low crawls. We then came to the Snowball.
The Snowball is a 20cm diameter rough sphere of calcite crystals in the center of an otherwise undecorated, boulder floored, 5m diameter passage. It is bizarre. It would be quite unremarkable apart from its weird location. We took photos and considered our options, deciding to press on for a bit. If the going was easy then we could make War of the Worlds, if not then we would need to turn back before to make our call out.
We think we made it to Red Chamber before deciding that the going was not easy enough and that we should turn round. In hindsight we should’ve set a morning call out or something, and really gone for it but I don’t think we expected to even get this far.
The way back was incredibly good fun. Pure caving joy. Fast and fluid movement through spectacular cave with no route finding, in good company, and with beer waiting on the surface. I signed us out of the book at Cairn Junction, noting that Davey had written that we were going to ‘Time Machine’ which some may know is in Daren, not Draenen. At least we didn’t need rescuing.
I think we were outside again within 3 hours of turning round, and just caught the last rays of the sun. As we changed a small horse walked down the road, said hello to us, and then continued on literally into the sunset. Magical.
Completely repeated my NPC trip by going to Craig A Ffynnon. What a good value cave. I did the Clive trick of making everyone look at the floor in the main chamber until they were at the optimum vantage point to see the vast array of stals and curtains in the ceiling.
This time we opted to explore the further reaches which I would describe as very worthwhile. A medium length section of crawling, often flat out, begins. It’s pretty good fun because the floor is smooth rock and calcite and its not particularly wet. This pops out in a ridiculously straight vadose passage that you can basically run along. And we did for a bit. What a novelty. Some big chambers follow and we failed to find the way to very last bit of cave.
Got some photos on the way out. Good cave, would return again.
A bank holiday so we once again awoke in Whitewalls. A lazy day of playing games with the chickens and deciding what cave to do. After about 3 hours of discussion, I suggested that we go to the pub. Everyone immediately kicked themselves for not thinking of this sooner.
I think some people went caving? Or maybe climbing or something terrible. So it was the drivers and Chris that ended up going to the pub. It’s a lovely walk down to Lllangattock and the Bridge Inn. Highly recommended.