South Wales, Easter 1978

Those present:- A. Hall, S. Pickles, K. Lewis, H. Sefton, M. Woodhouse, S & P. Muckalt, K. Walker & a couple of mates.

Members of the Red Rose from various parts of the country, including Preston, Derby, Glasgow & even Lancaster, assembled in the Ancient Briton in the village of Glyntawe, not a million miles from the S.W.C.C. hut on the Thursday before Easter. There, over pints of Whitbread Trophy bitter & sticky hot cross buns, they rocked in horror at the thought of five days continuous caving and Whitbread beer. Which one would they give up first ? (No prizes for the correct answer.)

Anyway, on Friday morning, with the arrival of Keith & Mark W, a large group of twelve assembled in the changing rooms at Penwyllt all ready to do the classic Ogof Ffynnon Ddu through trip, from Top Entrance to O.F.D. 1. After chatting up a friend of mine, he agreed to take half the party through as only groups of a maximum of six are allowed in O.F.D. 1. I set off at a steady pace as leader of the group through the entrance series. I was going to make very sure I did not get lost. My reputation was at stake here. The route down to the Main Stream was negotiated via Gnome Passage, The Chasm, Salubrious Passage & the Maze with no trouble at all. The climb down to the Maypole Inlet was done with the assistance of a rope, which I had thoughtfully brought along for the short-assed members of the party, (no names mentioned.) and eventually reached the Main Stream.

We set off down the streamway and soon split into two groups, with the old men at the back & the speedies at the front. Good time was made to the Great Oxbow Series, where one must leave the stream for a short section as it sumps. Much of the first section of streamway is littered with numerous deep potholes which can be traversed but are more easily swum. These always provide great fun & on this occasion Mark W. proved the star attraction as he managed to fall in most of them, usually with a little help from Steve.
We were joined by the second group & after a short rest, set off downstream again towards the Confluence, the point at which the Cwm Dwr stream enters. After a while the potholes decrease in number & eventually end altogether & the last two thousand feet of stream passage is large obstructed by numerous Millstone Grit boulders. So it was with some relief, we finally crawled through to the Confluence after covering over a mile of continuous, large stream passage.

After refreshments at Piccadilly, we continued on our way through large, dry passages of the Cwm Dwr Series to the Divers Pitch which is the beginning of the rather grovelly connection between O.F.D.1. & 2. This used to be a 55ft. ladder pitch, but an alterative easy but exposed. 30ft. climb is fixed with a rope. Sandra asked for a lifeline as she watched Keith climb it, making it look rather desperate. We all ascended the climb without further mishap and made our way onwards via another interesting fixed rope, which required going feet first through a letterbox & down a l5ft. wall with no hand or foot holds.
The way on is through a series of crawls & a devious route through the Dip Sump series. Eventually we found our way through the boulder choke at Hush Sump & into the Boulder Chamber which is the top end of O.F.D.1.   From here we were able to proceed more rapidly, over our large potholes which are crossed by scaffolding poles so that they can be navigated in flood conditions. Steve again starred in this section as he attempted to play baseball with the scaffolding poles & Keith’s head, but he was strongly rebuked by yours truly. (I was worried about my O.F.D.1 leadership, not what happened to Keith’s head).

We left the streamway near its end and made our way to the entrance series via deep static pool known as Pluto’s Bath in which a number of people were duly ducked, We returned to the streamway at high level where we were able to expel various liquids onto the second party as they made their way out. After more frivolities around Pluto’s Bath with the second party we exited in one large group. The walk back up the hill to the S.W. hut was as unpleasant as usual, but this is made up for what must rank as the finest through trip in the country.

 

EASTER MONDAY - O.F.D. 2  - The Columns.

Suffering from Whitbread Bitter poisoning, I suggested a trip to the Columns, those well photographed formations not far from the entrance to O.F.D. 2. So a party of four set off on what proved to be a very silly trip (Andy, Steve, “Aussi” Mark & Sandra.) The 70ft. pitch was soon reached which surprised me as I was not sure I knew the way. It was already rigged & full of “nig-nogs”. Steve in his usual diplomatic manner soon sorted them out & we were amazed to see the last man abseil down with a clog attached to a safety rope & a double lifeline already hanging down the pitch. It must have been like abseiling through a fork full of spaghetti. All four of us soon reached the bottom & the Columns were duly
admired. Then a quick return to the pitch was made, so as to beat the “nig-nogs” up the ladder. This was soon achieved although the other party seemed rather upset, especially as we had used their tackle for the descent. Anyway I told them we were S.W.C.C.  so I expect they were impressed.

As this diversion had only taken an hour, we agreed to go for a wander around the Top Series. We made our way through a rather obscure route via Cairn Chamber, The Labyrinth, Arete Chamber & Chasm Passage to the Poached Egg Climb. This awkward climb proved more of a problem to your intrepid  leader than to the rest of the party. From here we went to admire Straw Gallery, a fine low phreatic passage full of straws. At Bhowani Junction we turned right and were eventually brought to a halt at the top of the Crevasse a 70ft. pitch, which is descended on the way to O.F.D. 3.

After a short break, we returned to Bhowani Junction where we turned right to Crook, a passage I had not visited before. This soon developed into a high, wide rift which had to be traversed about 40ft. above the floor. This soon became too wide for Sandra (Mind you, that’s not difficult.), so we left her behind and traversed on over ever deepening holes, which Steve didn’t appear to notice. After about 300ft. Steve stopped at a particularly nasty looking traverse. Here I suggested that Sandra might be getting lonely & Mark backed me up. He wanted to chicken out as well. We returned to Sandra and made our way out in rapid time & back to a pleasant shower at Penwyllt.

 

A. Hall    (Your own South Wales Leader.)


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