Wales I

Ben Zelenay, Elijah Choi, Ingrid Nojoumian, Jarvist Frost, Jesse Zondervan, Jia Cheong, Laura Petrescu, Oliver Myerscough, Peter Fishbasher, Rhys Tyers, Sam Page, Tamzin Zawadska

Friday 5pm it was drizzling and darkening outside when we fresh cavers collected well-fitting caving equipment and put them in military sacks. We got stuck under the entrance to Beit quad while trying to load our baggage in the mini bus, because the key was broken and it was still drizzling. After gaining two new car keys and getting out of London, an Imperial College Union bus speedily headed towards the WSG hut near Penderyn in the Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales. In that bus huddled four experienced and eight new cavers: Rhys, Olli, Jarv, Sam, JiaEe, Elijah, Peter, Ben, Laura, Ingrid, Tamzin and me. Finally in the hut around midnight we found there was not a lot of wood in storage, but fortunately enough to warm the hut this night. Everyone joined the effort to prepare the pasta we had gathered in the Tesco along the way and after dinner we shortly climbed the cave-like stairs to bed to gain power for the first caving day.

Jesse Zondervan

Look into their eyes

Ten years under the earth! Oh my gods. What better way to celebrate than leading some new converts along the same route I trod ten years previously? Terrifyingly, this website now records the details better than I remember:- see for yourself the fantastically equipped Undergraduate Jarvist , and read the original Trip Report .

Safely inside the WSG, with the shower room eventually opened and the boiler lit (the locks were semi jammed), all was well. Until I went to toilet, and was terrified to look up and see seven lenticular cats gazing back in disapprovement, tracking my every movement. I couldn't sleep.

Jarvist Frost

Saturday

OFD (Top Entrance): Everyone!

Pleasant smells of full English breakfast came out of the kitchen Saturday morning as the early-birds of us baked sausages, egg ,bacon and French toast on the eight gas burners. An efficient purchase of teabags by Rhys secured our tea supply, so both food and drinks were in plenty. After a less than 45 minute drive to Ogof Ffynnon Ddu we changed into our caving gear and headed off into the cave. The group was split in two: Ben, Peter, Elijah, Tamzin, Ingrid and me under the leadership of Jarv and Sam went to top waterfall and back while Laura and JiaEe guided by Rhys and Oli went off for a shorter route. The 5-6 hour trip through the cave consisted primarily out of clambering up and down boulder stairs, but being in Jarv’s group I also experienced some wet conditions wading through the stream towards top waterfall. The enormity of the cave system and the calcite stalactites impressed me and undoubtedly others as well. However, reaching the surface once again (caving song played in the mini bus on the tune of ‘Rolling Down To Old Maui’) I was quite glad to smell some fresh air and see the sun again. Back in the hut we prepared Jarv’s pasta from the oven and enjoyed apple crumble. The evening was filled with caver’s games: trying to squeeze through the armrest of a wooden bench etc.

Jesse Zondervan

We rocked up at Penwylt to find a total lack of other student minibuses. Committee weekend, and so we, more or less, had the cave to ourselves. Inside the beautifully warmed hut (they had plenty of wood it seems!) the key secretary was looking rather lonely, with not a single card on the board despite it being half ten. He was pleasantly surprised by our presentation of permits (in triplicate) - thanks Sam! Having filled in people's names (and remarked on the number of Z first lettered surnames we had), we went back out into the drizzle and were pleasantly surprised to find everyone changed, sheltering in the lee of hte minibus.

It was much more pleasant underground, so we gently started our Edward's shortcut trip, taking in the Frozen River and having a little sit down by the Shattered Pillar. Soon we divided, with Sam and I continuing down to Maypole inlet while Rhys and Oli led back towards Swamp Creek. Relatively speaking, they didn't know the cave that well - but had the 'lies factory' of our often re-re-photocopied OFD survey. Very useful, even if it is missing the odd passage, implies connections where non exist and doesn't differentiate between passages on different levels.

The way down was very pleasant, we took slings for the rift climb rather than the more exposed chockstone + traverse at the end of the fairy steps. I always like listening to people slither down the Maypole Inlet rift for the first time - it's here that it hits you that caving isn't just about stumbling through muddy chambers with uneven boulder floors, but a really fun 3D dance version of twister with entertaining choices at every corner (above or below that boulder? Turn left so I find the first curve easier, or turn right so I find the second better? If I climb up 3m here, will I regret it, or prefer it? Why on Earth is there a chain here? Who brought that ladder down?!).

Safely all down in the streamway, I was mindful of the time as we yomped up stream. "If you're really good, you can keep your pants dry!" I confided with a grin, before promptly falling in the next pool. We spotted the Swamp Creek inlet, and shouted up to see if Rhys + co were abouts, but no chance. The pools became deeper, the Oxbows more exciting, and finally the wonderful reverse log flume and last set of stylish cascades before Top Waterfall. Here I loitered against the wall, gently shaking my head at the youngsters splashing around in the plunge pool and ducking under the main blaster, 'Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.'

With a perfect little margin of time before our call out we strode out the cave, said hello to the Judge and Trident, then corkscrewed up to the top level. Here we handed over our laminated survey to the new cavers, told them where we were, and which direction we were facing, then let them lead us out while Sam and I played our best poker faces. I was really quite impressed with the direct route we took - not a single wrong turning. Making collective decisions really worked - often individuals would first suggest things that were wrong, but the group would then reason them through.

And, as planned, the other's OFD and Minibus Key was missing from the carabina on the top of our Rescue / First Aid tacklesac at the entrance, so all was light and happiness - the lies factory and innate cave sniffing ability leading Rhys & co. safely out.

Popped outside to a glorious end of day - the rain was gone, and the visibility across the Swansea valley and all the way down to the sea was stunning. Zoomed home in our trusty bus, finding a fly tipped wooden palette (hurrah! we wouldn't freeze to death) on the way, cooked an extremely time efficient pasta bake (thanks for the recipe Dani!) with Kale, new pots and green beans, followed shortly by a massive Bramley & Cox crumble, with spoons of extra thick double cream.

Nightime descent into debauchery and caving games. Sam conked out on the Sofa, crawling upstairs sometime in the early hours once the fire was long gone out and the room cooling.

Jarvist Frost

Sunday

Porth Y Ogof: Jarv, Rhys, Oli, Sam, Jesse, Ben, Ingrid, Tamzin, Elijah, Peter

Sunday was a shorter day of caving, with the same pleasant full English Breakfast though. We went into a cave with many entrances (although I’ve only seen two of them) and lots of wet crawling spaces. After a short dinner of left-overs from the day before (which was quite a lot) we headed back to London.

Jesse Zondervan

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