Cecilia Kan, David Wilson, Fiona Hartley, James Perry, James Wilson, Jennifer R, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers, Úna Barker, Ana Teck, Lucie Studena, Kitt Thomas, Johannes Girsch, Margherita Buraschi
Agen Allwedd: James Perry, Jennifer R
How can a less than two hour journey take over four. An excessive amount of faff.
Felt committed to the concept of Friday evening caving so we ran around Aggy, getting some distance in. I think I'm slowly learning some of the route finding - largely by remembering painful mistakes.
Lost the way on the way out, went back to the turning and both call ourselves idiots, we know that turning perfectly well.
Left all the way in, right all the way out.
This trip used up all my clumsiness and caving enthusiasm, highly successful. The bruises are epic: worn out wellies and polish remain a bad combination.
Rhys and Cecilia made the finest selection of Welsh roads and podcast episodes for the journey down to Whitewalls. Whitewalls is one of my favourite huts. Its location is impeccable (although I don't much care for the kitchen and common room layout). We had dinner at the Horseshoe Inn, wandered to the entrances of Daren Cilau, PenEryr and Cnwc in the drizzle, and chatted to John Stevens until the bus arrived around 11. Jennifer and Perry returned from Aggy almost immediately, and so there was then a convivial atmosphere til far too late.
Agen Allwedd Grand Circle: Cecilia Kan, David Wilson, James Perry, James Wilson, Rhys Tyers, Lucie Studena
After a nice breakfast outside with the sheep we went and got ready for a Perry Grand Circle adventure. With it being my first time in Aggy, and only Lucie and Perry having done this trip before we were in for a good trip. On the walk over from Whitewalls I helped myself to some fresh Hawthorn leaves ‘bread and cheese’ they say, much to Rhys’s amusement.
Perry warned that we would get quite hot, so most of us ditched a layer at the entrance. However, wearing my PVC this was not enough. We proceeded through a not too unpleasant or memorable entrance, as I became a BoilInTheBag™. After going through a boulder choke (the way on being past the hole down and middle right) we emerged into some pleasant large walking passage. This was very social caving, but was not to be for long. We turned off the nice passage and entered Southern Stream Passage.
Southern Stream Passage was long, crawly and a bit damp, most memorably it had a water stop in the middle of it, where we discovered that James is a camel, and a waterfall. Things improved after the waterfall and the passage became a 3-5m high rift. After some climbs we finally popped out in the main streamway just upstream of the main downstream sump. Here we had our first proper break, ate some chorizo and mint balls. We tentatively walked upstream into what turned out to be waist high water and then spent the best part of an hour trying not to slip over in the ensuing streamway.
We finally got to the climb up to Biza passage, which was a bit intimidating, but perfectly doable and we had a short break a bit further on after another easier climb. The smell of Lucie’s strawberry Laces was blasted down the passage by the draft and we soon moved on down through the 4th boulder choke.
Rhys and Cecelia found a camera here, while James and I played pass the tackle sack. The 4th choke was a blind slither vertically down and looked a bit loose. It was fine however, except when James almost dropped the tackle sack on a loose flake just above my head. At the bottom we got through the easier third choke just downstream of the narrows.
Finally my PVC was useful, as the water deepened and the squeals behind me got louder and louder. I think at one point it was at my neck as I bounced off a ledge on the right. Looking backwards Cecelia seemed to be holding on to Perry and Rhys as they swam/bounced along near the ledge.
After this fun it was back to slippery but glorious streamway. Though the magic started to wear off after about an hour of this. Finally we got to Northwest junction, and the remainder of the way out for me started to blur together. There was a difficult climb that everyone else passed ok but took me 4 or 5 attempts. We saw the big passage again and the first choke, and then quite quickly, daylight again, only 7hr45 after we left it earlier.
Walking back we saw the others coming over to see the entrance, and me and Rhys did the shortest through trip in the UK in the cliff on the way back (4m). We had a nice tomatoey sauce mash thing and tried many of the random spirits in the Whitewalls selection.
Craig a Ffynnon and Eglwys Faen frolick: Fiona Hartley, Jennifer R, Rebecca Diss, Úna Barker, Ana Teck, Kitt Thomas, Johannes Girsch, Margherita Buraschi
Glorious sunshine saps the urge to go caving, or make breakfast, or move anywhere away from the sun.
Ended up with a mass attack on Craig a ffynnon. Fun times are multiplied with good company.
Disses double Ds. Two helmets shoved in a huge oversuit.
Mud fight v1 with diss - I did not start it! Fiona came into the chamber to find me laid on top of diss in the mud.
Hall of the mountain king. Let's leave we say. I regret having been convinced to leave my car at the hut, if I had it me and ana might have gone on a bit more. The Asda blueberry lemonade is very bad and mostly tastes of aspartame. Tesco is the superior pre caving shop.
Diss was waiting to ambush me at the mud, playing with clumps of 'delicious' mud. I decided the only solution to this ambush dilemma was to run straight at her, somewhat knocking Fiona over at the way. Such a tactic proved successful and I largely stayed on my feet. Ended up nearly chucking Diss face first in the mud. A tentative truce was suggested as Diss plastered my back with a thick layer of mud.
Bounce and slide out of the cave. Diss declared that I deserve to be 'in the ground'. The second boulder choke she promptly tried to kill me with a wadge of mud and stones colliding into my face. Thankfully in some situations glasses work quite well as goggles.
Above the second ladder climb I started to try and remove the mud from myself. This has highly limited success. I felt consumed by the mud, my hair definitely was.
Reached the wet side passage. Diss, Ana, Fiona and I decide the mud was bad enough to be worth washing off in there. This was both a very cold and very warming experience. Me and Diss consolidated our truce by washing each other's backs. For the first time in hours our oversuits had colours.
Exit, warm, sun. Wash my hair off in the washing up bowl in the sun. *Post trip wash still took three goes for the water to run clean.
Walk to eggy, aggy. My walk drink didn't make it any further than the hut before being finished. Tested my low light sight by wandering in eggy, dimly spotted a puddle and decided dry feet were optimal so turned around. Many early purple orchids were abound to be admired. Met the victorious grand circle lot returning back.
The sun was extremely alluring. I'd planned to go to Ogof Cnwc to conduct a re-reconnaissance (want to do the Daren through trip someday), but on the day I wasn't feeling it and wasn't sure it would be a great fresher trip. Instead we all went to Craig a Ffynnon in the minibus, with Diss driving. The bus (KYW?) was classically bleak. Dents and rust, gaps that let you see the road, and a locking system that relies on looking locked rather than being locked. This was of less concern to the other people, who are all far more used to the minibuses being actively broken rather than just bleak, so eventually I had to accept it.
We sweated up to the cave and entered. Being as it was so much cooler inside, I appreciated standing in a draught at various points. The climb to the boulder choke doesn't particularly inspire confidence; still, passing it was uneventful. We crawled up through the helterskelter of the second boulder choke, coating ourselves in a preliminary layer of mud to ready ourselves for the mud proper. Mud mud mud. So much mud.
Diss and Jennifer fought in the mud. Diss was wily but Jennifer was aggressive when provoked. I feared the mud too much to join. At the hall of the mountain king we discussed options and due to the single vehicle for transport we all turned around. One day we'll go further. I dossed at the back of the group and watched Jennifer and Diss have more mud fights. It felt appropriate to sing what I could remember of the lyrics to 'The Hippopotamus' by Flanders & Swann. Mud, mud, glorious mud, nothing quite like it for cooling the blood.
The second boulder choke is much more fun on the way down. The second climb is not. Again, it doesn't inspire confidence. We tried to bathe in Gasoline Alley on the way out to remove some of the mud - we mostly just got really wet as well as muddy. Happily, the inevitably wet and muddy change at the van was made pleasant by the hot sunshine.
Trundled back to the hut. Things remained pleasant. Jennifer washed mud off her plaits in a bowl of hot water that instantly turned murky brown. At some point in the endless evening we decided to walk to Eglwys Faen in our ordinary clothes. Diss spent a long time bouncing with anticipation before we left, which disturbed me. Such unbridled energy.
We frolicked along the tram road taking photos of orchids, chatting shit, disturbing campers etc. We then did various small through trips in Eggy by the lights of our phones. All the classic Llangattock evening things, really. As we frolicked over to the Aggy entrance, we met the triumphant Grand Circle team, so after a final laze on the grass, we followed our compatriots home.
I was disturbingly keen to enter any form of cave, and after some debate over the merits of Ogof Cnwc, we opted for a large trip in Craig a Ffynnon. I could remember excellent muddy crawls and the sloping boulder choke from my previous visits, so was naturally excited to return. I drove the minibus right past the miscellaneous layby which is the parking for the cave and so had to make a U-turn when safe to do so (thanks Google). The brakes on this minibus definitely function as normal.
The weather was horrifically hot and I changed reluctantly into my furry and oversuit. I had opted to borrow club kit this weekend and the oversuit assigned to me was rather fitted in the hip area. There was however a mens L oversuit in the spare kit bag which was the lesser of two evils. I found that the chest was so large I could hold two helmets within it, creating the so-called Diss’ double Ds.
After the usual amount of fresher changing faff, we wandered up to the entrance and someone managed to open the excessively complicated lock. I was very keen to enter the coolness of the underground and so dove in first, awaiting the others further in the crawl. As is usually the case, I have little memory of the order of passages or events. There’s a chamber with straws, an excellent boulder choke which is very much uphill on the way in and a handline climb which leaves one questioning the lack of SRT. On this occasion I found the climb to be fun and was quietly happy about my lack of The Fear™.
We eventually reached delicious mud and the Mud Wars of 2022 began. Jennifer was certainly the victor but I like to think I put up a good fight.
Something something we turned around and saw it all from the other side.
When we exited the cave, we found two civilians chilling in the grass. We were plastered with mud and they appeared to question our life choices.
Back at the hut there was sun and Guinness and an eventual walk to Eggy via a family of wild campers.
I entered Eggy with shorts and naturally came out bleeding. Worth it for the cave count ofc.
Ogof Cnwc aka Price's old dig: David Wilson, James Wilson, Lucie Studena
Me, James and Lucie went to Cnwc. Pro tip: It's further away than you think it is. Once inside its a mere 20min of squeezy passage to enter the much bigger Busmans Holiday where following the good description we got all the way to the start of Antler passage before turning back. It was quite muddy, but a Cnwc to Daren through trip is definitley a good option for the future.
Pen Eryr: Fiona Hartley, Rebecca Diss, Ana Teck
The morning included mass excitement over hearing a real actual cuckoo cuckooing and Perry saying of his post-grand circle body aches, "This is the oldest I've ever felt."
Ana, Diss and I went to Pen Eryr. Excellent Sunday cave. Excellent company. So smooth. Much miaow. Crawls and climbs and squeezes all compressed together. Being a caver of not-narrow hips I spent longer in the first calcite squeeze than the other two but it was fun. One climb (which had a notch in the rock exactly the size of my right hipbone) involved all three of Diss's "W's of caving" - wedging, wiggling and whaling - at the same time. I invented the three S's of Pen Eryr: slither, slip, slide. (Also applies to Eastwater on Mendip.)
We got to a stal boss at what appeared to be the end (it is) and retraced the smooth rock to the start, wondering all the while which bit the Corkscrew is. Still no idea. We walked back to Whitewalls in our undersuits to achieve maximum furry drying time and arrived at the same time as cafe crew. Then we all sat about in the glorious sunshine, the true objective of the weekend.
I had heard of Corkscrew (Pen Eryr) being a good sunday cave but never ventured there myself. Today was apparently the day and Fiona, Ana and I set off up the hill. Fiona is knowledgeable of cave locations. It’s fairly close to Daren but much more inviting. This cave is ideal in all ways. It has fun crawls, climbs, wedges and is a perfect length for a Sunday without making you feel like you’ve done no caving. I am sure we communicated in the feline language and were back at the hut with enough time for snacking and lounging before our long drives home.
Hmmm sun. Enthusiasm.
Cake is tasty.
That hill is steep, everyone get out. Oh good, no more stalling.
It's so convenient to live so close.