Saturday 22 June 2013

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu, the Cave of the Black Spring. South Wales.

When:  21, 22, 23 June 2013.
Where:  Ogof Ffynnon Ddu, the Cave of the Black Spring. South Wales.
Who:    Darren T, Rich T, A Sparrow, R Sparrow, K Passant, J Durber, E Waters, H Clark.

Cheddar Caving Club trip to OFD

OFD 1: Toast Rack, Dug out, wire traverses, Rawl Series, Lowes Chain,
OFD 1 and a half: The Connection, Diver's Pitch,
Cwm Dwr: Piccadilly, Nether Rawl, The Smithy, Cwm Dwr Jama, Dim Dwr (crawl) and out.


Rich and myself left Salisbury on Friday afternoon and arrived at the SWCC hut at about 5.30pm. We checked in and started to erect the tent. The forecast was wet. We had the option of staying in the bunkhouse or using Richards old tent. Rich was all for tenting it but I was having reservations as the clouds were getting blacker. We soon had the tent up and I was putting my sleeping bag inside it when I noticed two holes in the roof. That's it I thought I'm in the bunkhouse.  When I pointed out the holes to Rich he agreed and we moved our kit into the bunkhouse.  We took the tent down and put it in the bin lol. The rest of our team weren't due to arrive for a few hours so we had something to eat and had a wander round. The South Wales Caving Club bunkhouse is a converted terrace of 10 small cottages at Penwyllt.  Penwyllt is in the upper Swansea Valley, on the southern edge of the Black Mountain.  Directly beneath the cottages is part of one of the deepest and longest caves in Britain, Ogof Ffynnon Ddu.  There are three entrances to this system within walking distance of the cottages -  - the OFD I or bottom entrance, the Cwm Dwr entrance and the OFD II or top entrance.  By 9.30pm everyone had arrived, Andy and Rachel opted to spend the night in their new tent and everyone else slept in the bunkhouse.  We all met up in the common room to discuss plans for the weekend, the original plan was to do the  OFD 1 to OFD 2 through trip on Saturday and Dan-yr-Ogof on Sunday.  Rich and myself were going to find some mines to explore on Sunday as party sizes are limited for DYO and you are advised to wear full wetsuits etc.  Ed advised us all that due to the recent rain and the forecast for more that the DYO trip could not happen.  We were all getting a bit concerned that OFD trip was not looking good either, so we revised our plan that we would probably do OFD 1 to Cwm Dwr depending on the weather Saturday.  After a few hours of tea and beer drinking and hearing about Kens strange aversion to puppies and underpants we went our separate ways to our bunks.  We awoke Saturday morning to more rain and after breakfast assembled in the common room again to plan the day.  Andy had driven down the road to look at the resurgence where the river exits the hillside as this can give an indication as to what the streamway will be like in the cave, the stream was more like a river pouring out with some force.  After more tea drinking and faffing we decided we would do OFD 1 to Cwm Dwr missing out most of the streamway by criss crossing over it in places.  We got the key to the cave from the warden and filled out the permits.  Our start time was 11.30 am and return time 19.00 hours. This was our callout time, should we be delayed then the warden would assemble cave rescue and they would come and rescue us.  We got changed and decided to take a 20m rope and slings rather than our SRT harnesses with a selection of crabs.  We were sorting out who was carrying which bags when someone suggested taking the 30m rope instead.  After more faffing it was time to go and off we went down the hill to the entrance.
 On the way you can see up into the hills.  What is usually a small brook was a raging torrent and our party of seasoned cavers went quiet.  We pressed on down the hill and the sun came out and soon the mood lifted to thoughts of the adventure ahead.  We stopped for a quick group photo at the entrance to the cave.  Where the sun had come out so had the midges and we were being eaten alive so we quickly entered the cave, down the rickety old iron ladder we went and regrouped at the bottom.  We followed the passageway to the foot of a small climb which leads to the Toast rack, so called because it is a rock feature that looks like a toast rack set into the floor.  The passage carries on to the main stream way.  We could hear the water raging through on its way to the resurgence.  Andy, Ed etc went and had a look to see how high it was.  Rich and myself went up the toast rack and had a look from above, the water was moving very fast and from above you can see why its called the black spring.  The rock is very dark and makes the water appear black.  The rest of the group caught us up and we set off again in search of part of the cave system called Dug out.  After a right turn we ended up going down a few tightish wet crawls and nobody recognised where we were so we backtracked and went left.  This was the right way and we soon arrived at the wire traverses.  One traverse is called the Airy Fairy.  We continued on a bit to another 30m traverse with a drop below into the stream way, at the end you have to unclip yourself and stand on a iron bar and climb over a big bolder to continue.  We all safely negotiated this and soon found ourselves in the Rawl series.  After this there is a bedding plane crawl called roly poly passage.  On a bit farther we arrived at Lowes Chain, which is about a 12ft drop into the stream way.  There used to be a chain to aid the climb down but bits easier to use a rope and abseil down.  Once we were all down we followed the stream way called Upper Flood Passage to the Boulder Chamber, on through Starlight Chamber to the connection with OFD 1 1/2.  The next obstacle is the Letterbox.  This is a letterboxed shaped hole about 12" high by 24" wide in the rock about 20ft up the side of a chamber.  Andy took the end of the rope and free climbed the pitch and posted himself through the hole.  One by one we followed.  very difficult to try and go through the hole as its best to go through feet first hanging from a silly piece of rope which isn't long enough to get your legs out straight enough to go through.  The lifeline Andy is holding is there to stop you falling to the bottom not to use to pull yourself through.  Having said that its good fun to go through.  I would like to come the other way. We all regrouped at the bottom of a passage and waited for Ed and Rich to find the way on to a ledge which is partway down the Divers Pitch.  This is a 12 meter Pitch to the passage below.  After much faffing we concluded that it was nowhere to be found and we would have to abseil the full length of the pitch.  All hail that man who suggested bringing the 30m rope as the 20 would have been far to short.  As it is the 30 is not long enough for the last person down to do a pull through with the rope.  This is where you abseil down the bolted side of the rope and once at the bottom pull the loose end and the rope comes through the bolt to the ground.  Not sure how Andy did it but with the aid of a sling he managed, probably best not to dwell on that one.
 The bottom of the Divers Pitch signifies you are now in the cave called Cwm Dwr.  It was time to get a jog on if we were to avoid the embarrassment of cave rescue coming to meet us as our call out time was beginning to creep ever closer and we were only two thirds into the trip.  Through Piccadilly and The Nether Rawl series.  Next comes the part of the cave called the Smithy and then Cwm Dwr Choke.  This is a part of the cave where the roof has collapsed and you have to crawl, climb and wriggle through, over and under lots of boulders.  Some very interesting body positions have to be got into to complete this.  We should have bought the game Twister when the kids were small.  Next we actually go under the SWCC hut far above on the surface.  After a few short climbs we are in Cwm Dwr Jamma where there is lots of  white calcite.  Next is the Dim Dwr which signifies we are nearly home.  This is the part a few of us were dreading.  It is a long (about 500ft) crawl through a passage which closes down to about 10" high by 16" wide.  Its very confined but you have to go through it unless you want to go all the way back the way you have just come.  Its not as bad as it sounds as the thought of getting to the surface at the end gets you through it.  After this there is a climb up some concrete tubes to the gate on the surface.  We finally exited at 18.45, 15 minutes before callout.  Andy was first then Rich then me.  Judie was next and she found us sat in the rain talking about the last seven hours lol.  She said it would probably be a good idea for someone to go to the SWCC hut and tell them we were out.  I think we agreed with her but carried on sitting there.  In the end Judie went on ahead to the hut.  Back at the hut we all showered and changed  and met up in the common room for tea.
That evening we went to the village and had a very nice hot meal in the pub and talked about the trip.
Later on back at the hut we decided that as most of us were tired and bruised from the days antics we would decide in the morning what to do on Sunday.  As it was we were all to knackered to do anything so we slowly packed our kit together and departed for home.

What a great weekend.  Thanks to all that made it so good, we WILL return to OFD.

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