01 December 2012

South Wales

I’d been in North Wales only three months ago. And it was great! So when a trip to south Wales came up I decided to join. Rupert picked me up. The car got quite full; Paul and Laura were in it too, and so did quite some club kit. We were all wedged in, but we got there. Where?

The hut

We reached the hut; I could tell, as it looked like on the website. The door was locked, the shutters were closed. It was freezing! We had a description of where they key should be, but even with it it was hard to find. We found it though, and we got in, to a snug hut where the remnants of a fire were still smouldering. I immediately got me a litre of hot water. I also wondered what bed to pick, and decided on the one in the furthest corner. It would turn out to be a wise choice!

The bucolic view from the hut

Before the others had returned from the pub I called it a day. I stuffed toilet paper in my ears and curled up. I slept quite well, even though I sometimes half woke up and heard the murmur coming from below.The next day I would find out people had been partying into the early hours. They had even equaled the local record in the squeeze machine! (For those who don't know what that is: this website is rather illustrative.)

The next morning we would go into Ogof Ffynnon Ddu, where I’d been before. We would meet up at another hut with some members of the Axbridge caving club; we’d meet at 10.30. We hoped we would have Dave and Dave too by that time; they had had commitments the day before, and would drive in that morning. Unfortunately, they didn’t make it. Bernard decided against joining, as he felt a bit iffy in the ear. So with a reduced group we had a massive fried breakfast and off we went. We were at the other hut at 10; some faffing followed. It turned out the other club wasn’t keen on teaming up with us anyway, so we went in ourselves.

The other hut, half-hidden in the valley, and three cavers on their way to OFD.

It was a weekend with massive weather warnings all over the place. We had decided we were fine going into OFD, but not into the active streamway. There was bound to be a LOT of water in there. And we didn’t want to get swept away, or trapped by rising water. Luckily, OFD is very large, and there was enough to go around. We rummaged around a bit; I lost track of where we were quite soon. But we had a play in the grid that OFD is (a map clearly reveals the cave was formed by water running through a the fracture system consisting of two perpendicular sets), and saw rifts, dripstone formations, minor streamways, and whatnot.I took only few pictures; I didn't want people to wait for me all the time, and with my weak light it can take forever to light up the large spaces you tend to find in OFD. But for the curious: there is an excellent virtual tour! We were in OFD II-III, so that's where the link goes, but those that want to see OFD I too should go here.

A pretty aven in OFD

At some point we decided to split up; there were two locations we wanted to visit, and it would get somewhat congested if we would go with all 9 of us at one time. I teamed up with Lionel, Richard and Alex; we would head for the Maypole. It’s a precipitous drop into the streamway. We got there soon, and upon inspection of the drop we decided to use a rope. It’s a scary climb! But we only had belay belts; we would have to go up and down on an Italian hitch. I am fine with that going down, but not going up, so I chickened out. That way I got to see another group come up on our rope, the presence of which they found rather convenient. A guy came up first, and then belayed up the rest. It was nice to just have a relaxed chat with him. If I knew someone would belay me up I would have gone, but well, one doesn’t, does one. He belayed our men up too. Then we were on our way again!

We soon met the other group, and then we switched directions. We clambered to an impressively big chamber with imposing drippies. The only way further was up a rope, and we didn't have SRT kit on us; so we turned back. We just went to the exit; we expected the other group to do the same. We got back to the hut, and those who had thought of bringing a towel (me) had a shower.And then we had to wait for the other group. That took longer than we had thought... The cave kept on vomiting out groups of cavers, and it takes some focus to distinguish these from each other, but many groups had walked past the window before we finally recognised the gait of one of our own members.

When they had changed too we went to the pub. For a pint? A meal? A pint, then home to hang out our wet kit and collect Dave, Dave and Bernard, then a meal? Some confusion later we settled for a pint and a meal. Wales isn't littered with places to eat, and we'd rather have food with an incomplete group than no food at all. So it was after dinner by the time we not only got to hang out our kit, but also were finally united! That was our cue for some relaxing at the woodfire. Not too much, though; I am just a pansy, and the others were exhausted after last night's debauchery. I curled up with earplugs one of our chaps had brought, and slept like a princess.

Lounging in the hut

The next day the consensus on what to do gravitated towards Dinas silica mine. Lionel had described it to me as a good place for the weak, old and boring. And I had to agree it wasn't a venue full of physical challenges, but it was stunningly beautiful! It was a rather steeply inclined lode that had been mined out, with pillars left in place. The place was littered with remains of rails, machinery and whatnot, and had quite a Moria-like atmosphere to it, due to the size of it all, and the sheer desertedness. I had a blast!

The waterfall just outside Dinas

Group picture in the silica mine

I didn't take many pictures in there, so I stole a few from an earlier trip I didn't attend; this pic was taken in 2011

At some point, we walked up an incline, found it reached the surface, clambered out, and then scurried around until we had found a way back in. We don't need much to stay amused! Soon after that though, we went out. We had some fun looking at people jumping into the river from the waterfall, and then Bernard wandered into a tunnel on the other side of the river. That became Dinas adventure nr 2...

The mine had some nice dwellers too: snottites!

One needs not point out Lionel and I couldn't resist such a temptation. Neither could Richard. We walked into a tunnel, and near the end we found an inclined shaft with a waterfall in it. The three of us went up. Lionel was muttering something about it being harder to climb down than up, but I didn't pay attention. This shaft also reached the surface. Lionel wanted to go back down around the outside; Richard didn't fancy it and went down the way we had come. I followed Lionel; I thought it would be very unlikely we would make it; it was a very steep valley, but especially then it's important to stay together. We scurried through the near-vertical woods until we were quite sure it wasn't a good idea. On the way down the inclined shaft Lionel, of course, came down without problems, while I struggled a bit. Me and my big mouth.

Another 2011 picture, which gives a reasonably good idea of what the place looks like.

We were back just in time to catch up with the rear end of the cavers' peloton. And then the trip was abruptly over! We still had hours of driving ahead. We didn't even wait for each other. We just changed, waved and set off. Goodbye to Wales!

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