"I have never been to St. John's Wood. I dare not. I should be afraid of the innumerable night of fir trees, afraid to come upon a blood-red cup and the beating of the wings of the Eagle." - The Napoleon of Notting Hill, G. K. Chesterton
The strange thing about Aggy, is the manner in which we haven't been there as a club for decades. The whole of Llangattock is a bit of a mystery to be honest, rather like the extremes of the tube, familiar names and places that nevertheless feel somewhat ethereal and apart.
We had tried to correct for this a couple of years ago, but our Sunday Aggy trip from the CSS had been a bit of a disaster when we didn't find our way through the first boulder choke. Rather chastened we beat a retreat. Now we were back, and determined to see some of the cave beyond the entrance series.
Full on assault. Pleasant change in the CSS, then out into the driven rain for the walk to the entrance. A load of cars rocked up just as we were locking up, we let them back in to take a few digi photos of the big Aggy survey.
We dived into the cave and signed in to the cave. Quickly zipping along we loped along, passing through the blasted ducks and sniffing out the tiny little bit of route finding. With a minimal of fuss we arrived at the boulder choke.
Out came the carefully laminated Selected Caves & Caves of South Wales surveys. And what a contradictory set of lies they were! We would have had better luck last time, and been quicker this time, to have ignored the descriptions for this section, particularly the bit about 'climb down soon after the start of the boulder choke..'
Essentially just keep up high as you climb over the boulder choke, then drop down through it right at the end (where some [bat] conservation tape stops your climbing out of the passage). Down you go, and pop into a little chamber with a crawlway also bat-taped off. At this point, near your feet, there is a horizontal body sized phreatic tube that drops you back down into the water level. Follow this and you automatically wiggle your way along through choked boulders in a rift and pop out in Barons chamber. Only key point is noticing that you've climbed quite severely up at the end of the choke, on the return you must climb back down otherwise you end up in a series of rather polished crawls on top that don't connect!
By this point we had mingled with the more experienced cavers, who detangled and set off ahead.
Once everyone was through and grouped we continued down to the streamway, found our way with no problems through the other bits of boulder choke. It was rather difficult to understand what is considered to make up the 2nd choke, it was more that you had a very short section of choke immediately next to the stream, and then did a couple of climbs (both with some hand lines on them) to get into a continuation of a choke at a different level which eventually met the 'warning' sign. This continued via a natural climb up at the end of passage into a nice high phreatic chamber with an easy climb back down to the streamway, which was followed to the North West passage junction. The plastic cup on a string next to the percolation inlet was particularly enjoyed!
Here we took a few photos, and split teams. The chefs headed out directly, the Turkey daydreamers headed up Turkey streamway to enjoy the sights & take a few photos. After deviating off the passage into an increasingly tight inlet, we returned to NW passage and then romped downstream for a while. This was horrifically slippy, I imagine peat deposits on the rock, but was an impressively wide streamway.
Aggy is a fine cave indeed, and I am grateful that I have finally had a successful trip in there. But I can understand why it is not more popular, it just seems to drag on for so long. Whereas OFD and other Welsh caves change nature on every corner, Aggy gets into a rhythm and then keeps going for a couple of kilometres! I will certainly be back and intent on some of these round trips, but if there's a choice between a trip down Daren and Aggy, I know which way I will turn at the door of the CSS.
They arrived at the cave to find that there were LED-throwies scattered around the main chamber, and a Cello-led hippie ensemble playing music to end the world to. A enjoyable little scurry around in the rabbit warrens at the back of the cave, with a suitably melodramatic soundtrack.
Pen Eryr continued it's reputation as a very fine trip, the easy but entertaining cork screw climb providing a suitable baptism for the more novice members, and still having plenty of interesting passage beyond to explore.
Early start to our return to London, strapping stuff to our roof rack as dusk fell.