An early morning pork fry-up by the generally very lazy & strictly vegetarian president enabled the group to leave the WSG hut by 10am. The brakes were soon squeezed on by a visit in the 'bus to the Dragon-man, involving much tea drinking & gear fetishising. Finally at the SWCC just before noon, we were underground for just after midday!
Diving through the excitingly tight concrete tube - the crawling began in earnest. For reasons unbeknown to even himself, Jarvist decided to put a Tetra-Bric of orange juice into his neck-slung SRT bag; making himself into a non-alcoholic St Bernard's.
Once the tight section was passed, we burst into the much more pleasent but rather aptly named labyrinthe section of the cave, where big passages crossed each other at right-angles connected by subtle boulder chokes. An exciting clamber down an enormous slab of limestone deposited us in the start of a streamway (underground river). Clambering above the perfectly clear water, we traversed around trying to stay as dry and possible
Soon we reached the confluence, where two rivers meet from opposite directions, their waterfalls falling through a hole in the wall and recombining in midair. An impressive place, and all the more so as you climb down through it!
We had now joined the main OFD streamway, and the water was deeper & faster flowing. The riverbed was impossible to see below the rapids, the only way to tell that you were approaching a dwarf trap was when the person in front fell in! These little cold-water Jacuzzi's form automatically where the river has started swirling & bored down a perfect circular depression in the limestone. Some are over 6ft deep, as attested by Johnie as he slipped in up to his helmet after trying to traverse around one!
Beautiful white strips appeared in the rock, to warn of the approaching 'marble showers' - very picturesque but shockingly cold!
After over a mile of clambering along the active streamway, up waterfalls and across rapids, we were at the climb up into OFD proper. Darryl & Clew attached a helping sling, the stemples were easily passed by Johnie, our eager fresher. A quick slither up the slipperly freeclimb, and onto the worryingly flexible fixed ladder.
The riftway is rather more tight at this point, with lots of sideways shuffling necessary to pass by. We overshot the boulder climb at first, but soon backtracked and stepped up into Salubrious passage.
With Darryl's ever exacting navigation in the labyrinthe near the top entrance, we had a quick photoshoot by the Trident formation, finally drinking the rather bulbous cartoon of orange juice that I had been dragging around! Exit by 5pm into sunshine & blue sky, a very exertive but pleasent 5 hour trip!
The plan was to attempt to make it down to Mapole inlet, with a vague hope that the two groups may pass. Some of the freeclimbs were rather too tough for the freshers to attempt however, so diversions were made to explore the enormous interlocked maze of the high-levels of OFD. Visits were made to the Corkscrew, Trident & Wedding cake - as well as pretty much every cavern, passage & stalagmite within a mile of the entrance!
Exit at 6:30pm, quick change in the gathering gloom before zooming back to the WSG hut for a very tasty Curry by Jo. Party was rather damped by the sheer tiredness, people choosing to snooze in front of the wood fire digesting rice instead!
The bed situation was in even more dire straits on the Saturday night, with more WSG members present, ICCC'ers Sardine'd onto the too-few bunkspaces. Everyone slept like a log regardless!
A rather later start to the day, we were nevertheless packed & driving off by midday. Everyone, not just the freshers, was left a little stiff-muscled after Saturday's hard core trips!
Lots of conflicting information abounded about little Neath & whether the farmer was allowing access to it over his land - but we turned up in the bus at the farmhouse, to be greeted by a friendly face who charged us a very acceptable fiver for the whole bus. Luckily, anne was disuaded from buying one of the puppies on sale - as they're not renowned for their caving ability!
Little neath is entered from the river, one literally follows the water down what appears to be a letter-box sized slot. The initial 20m are fairly small and unpleasent, but one then bursts into beautiful walking passage with an enormous amount of formations & flowstone dotted around. One follows the river for a considerable distance, the smooth rock allowing one to slide along the gradient with the water!
Some beautifuly & large passages are passed, with the river suddenly getting significently larger as its joined at a confluence. At this point one can literally swim along with the current - just watch out for submerged boulders!
The Canal was duly entered, a 100m long crawl through water where the roof gently slopes down to the point where there's just breathing space - before suddenly exploding into an enormous chamber filled with sand.
Exit quickly made, changing by the minibus by 4pm, a gentle ride back to London for an obscenely early 9pm! Good trips!
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