O.F.D.

Party:- C. Iddon, N. Dunton & friends.

Saturday morning found us camped by the side of a small road; surrounded by the inevitable herd of sheep. Breakfast was enhanced by me forgetting petrol for the stove, tin opener, cups, butter & various other essential items while packing. The plan for the day was a through trip from Cwmdwr quarry entrance to O.F.D II top entrance. As none of our party had been in Cwmdwr before our main problem was to be route finding; this was quickly verified by a glance at the survey. We arrived at the South Wales hut at about 10:30 and while negotiating access learnt that two S.W.C.C. men were digging in Cwmdwr & for an ha1f-hours assistance would take us to the confluence, where Cwmdwr joins the main streamway. After a quick discussion we decided that this would be the course of action.

The Cwmdwr entrance is a short walk from the hut is guarded by a locked iron door (although access is supposedly not limited). The way down is through an incongruous concrete drainpipe about 30ft. with an awkward change of direction near the bottom. This was followed by DimDwr, 60 feet of hands & knees crawling leading to Cwmdwr Jama. The dig was off a short vadose passage leading from the Jama at the end of a tight flat-out crawl. Our Ďhelpí consisted of lying head to in this crawl, passing rocks down the chain - very hot work. Digging was soon halted by an imovab1e object, so we retired to the Jama while a charge was set & detonated. My first experience of a bang underground.†††††† Our course now lay through an extremely unstable boulder pile, where the route is difficu1t to follow & as boulders have been known to ďtalkĒ to passers-by, it not a place to linger, From here to the Smithy, a confusing area of large boulder filled chambers & passages, & then by the dry route to the Confluence. Here our guide left us.

Iíd heard a lot about the OFD streamway but it really exceeded all expectations - for those who havenít been itís superb. Cascade follows cascade & the floor occasionally disappears into deep water filled potholes. Carol gave good demonstration of flow to wash the top of your helmet in one of these. One particularly striking place was Marble Showers, a series of cascades with pure white veins of marble in the floor & walls. After about half a mile we came to a sump which was bypassed by the Great Oxbow, in easy walking passage leading to a I5 foot climb back into the streamway. Then off again in the same style until we reached Maypole Inlet. As there are numerous inlets hereabout we were not sure if this was the right one. There are climbs of 16, 9 & I5 feet out of the streamway, thefirst of which involved a wide bridging movement across the stream - good job we had a hand line Carol! This brings you out into a high rift passage which quickly ascends to a point where you climb out of the rift via a perched boulder - another awkward move.

After all this climbing it was a relief to get back to the large passages of the old series at the Crossroads. We followed Salubrious Passage, taking a short detour to visit two famous OFD formations, the Trident a long thin stalactite & the Judge - a huge stalactite resembling a judges wig. Here Carol fell flat on her face in a two inch deep puddle of mud, in an attempt to divert the cameras from the formations. From here we climbed rapidly to Arete Chamber where there is a 20 foot climb up into a very slippery mud-filled passage which doubles back over Salubrious. To emphasize how quickly you are climbing there is a hole in the floor leading back to Salubrious well over 100 feet below. The traverse over this hole using handholds is very entertaining. On the way to the top entrance further detours were made to see Gnome Passage with its scores of little flat stalagmites & the impressive Big Chamber.

Iím afraid this account is rather, sketchy, but like all first visits to a major system itís rather difficult to take it all in. The through trip took us about 7 hours but that included the digging & escorting a novice in the party (there always seems to be someoneís sister on these trips). All round a very satisfying days caving enough to tempt you away from Yorkshire for a day or two.

N. Dunton

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