Easter in South Wales - 1979

We arrived at Penwy1lt (S.W.C.C. Headquarters) at around 9 p.m. & bagged ourselves some bunks. Mike Taylor was most impressed with the. set up at Powell St., which is a little more organised than Bull Pot Farm. Well, S.W.C.C. have got over 300 members & a turnover of 3 grand a year.
The following day was Good Friday, & what a good Friday it was. Glorious sunshine, very different to last year. After breakfast, Keith, Mark Woodhouse & another troglodyte (or is it Troll-odite) Paul Seddon arrived. They had that keen underground look about them (even Keith) & were not to be put off with thoughts of sunbathing. It was decided to do an action replay trip of the previous year i.e. OFD2 top entrance to OFD1 through trip. After a pleasant walk we reached Top Entrance & accompanied by 4 cavers from S.W.C.C. made our way casually down Salubrious Passage towards Maypole Inlet. On arrival there, I seemed to have picked the hardest route to climb down as I was passed by the welsh party who had descended by a different route. So much for your fearless South Wales Leader.

The Main Stream was not as high as I had expected after the recent heavy rains but high enough to provide some good sport. Most of the pots proved great fun. Having crossed a deep one,
I neatly side stepped another hidden by white water, but somehow I forgot to tell Mark who was close behind. I turned to see him disappear up to his neck in the water. He was not amused. After leaving the streamway at the Confluence we continued on to Piccadilly, as we approached this large chamber Mark gave a cry of anguish followed by several curses. My lights gone out, he moaned. This was greeted with the usual Red Rose sympathy as Mark is renowned for his reliable light.(See recent article on Vesper Pot.) There were several comments regarding “duff gear”, which Mark again seemed to take in a serious vein. We carried on to the Divers Pitch which leads into the connection between 0FD I & 2, and came to an abrupt halt at the base of the climb as another party were already ascending
it. This group turned out to be the Furness Underground Group with Alan Ball in charge (as usual). I asked him if he had a permit, but he didn’t seem too impressed. After this exchange of pleasantries, we had another wait while a second party descended. 

After this delay we carried on at a leisurely pace, mainly due to Marks inability to keep up. You would think by now he would be used to caving without a light. The OFD I streamway was finally reached & a rapid exit made into a lovely sunny afternoon.

An early start was intended but the best laid plans usually go astray, and even though Pete arrived on time we were held up by the campers cooking breakfast. I had arranged a trip in Ogof-Craig-A-Ffynon meeting at Whitewalls, the Chelsea Hut, at II a.m. but ….

We finally arrived at the cave to find some well known northern caving figures armed with a crowbar & an axe, examining the recently destroyed gate on the cave. Mike Starr our leader from Chelsea was most upset by this turn of events, but I assured him that they were nothing to do with the Red Rose.
The cave is located high up on the north side of the Clydach Gorge, to the east of Brynmawr. It lies in an old quarry, near some lime kilns just down the road from the Rock & Fountain Inn. The entrance passage is an excavated crawl to a small boulder filled chamber, which leads via a tight bedding plane duck to a larger well decorated chamber. Keith as might be expected had trouble in the duck, but we talked him through. We continued in a large well decorated passage to the First Boulder Choke, of which there are five. This is short but loose and you ascend into an even larger passage. The roof eventually lowers to a bedding plane canal section which is liable to flood. Most of the stream appears from a sump on the left at this point, apparently in dry weather this becomes a duck which leads to about I500ft.of streamway. We continued on past this to the 2nd Boulder Choke. At the bottom of this were two short climbs, normally laddered. This proved an interesting free climb which I made a pigs ear of, much to the amusement of the others. At the top of the pitches a rift lead straight into the massive second choke. This appears to have been dug and blasted along most of its length. It was hard work going through here. It must have been a long & arduous dig.

Once out of the choke a hands & knees crawl followed a taped route through a boulder pile end broke out into a passage of enormous size, containing fine formations & several dome shaped chambers. We all stood stupefied in one chamber, looking up into a large passage in the roof nearly 100 feet above us. Large stalactites hung from the ceiling while the floor, some 40 feet wide was covered in large active travertine dams.

The final chamber in this section “Hall of the Mountain King” is even larger than this but leads immediately into No.3 Boulder Choke, This is short through a tight bedding plane to about 800 feet of crawling. This time we couldn’t talk Keith through. I think he thought he had done the cave as he had been to the pretties, but in fact he was only half way in. He returned to the surface with the well known northern cavers.

At the end of the crawl a long phreatic tunnel leads to a complex breakdown area, parts of which looked very unhealthy. Mike Starr carried on to do some banging in a streamway below the main passage, while we carried on towards the 4th. Boulder Choke. On reaching this most of the party seemed lethargic & sat about looking apathetic, Pete &. I probed into the choke for some distance then decided to return to the others. Just as well for I soon experienced light failure. However with Petes assistance we quickly met up with the rest who severely chastised me. However I can take it & managed to find my way out with only a modicum of pleading for a light. We finally reached the surface to find Gill & Keith sunbathing. We washed in the stream & made our way back to the Swansea valley.

Yet another sunny day & yet another late start. It was 11:30a.m. by the time we got up to Dan-yr-0gof. Keith & Mark staggered towards the show cave under the weight of camera gear and we all tried to look hard in front of the tourists. We passed quickly through the show cave & down into the Lakes. These were fairly high with about 18 inches of airspace in Lake 3. On reaching the end of the lakes, yet again we had light failure. This time it was Keith, but after a few minutes of verbal criticism about “duff gear”, he cracked under the strain and decided to return to the surface (Some people definitely cannot take it ) This left five of us, Pete, Mark, Mike, Paul and myself.

Without Keith we were quickly through the Long Crawl and. into DY02, Pete with my assistance, attempted to take pictures of Flabbergasm Chasm and Cloud Chamber, but the “duff gear” syndrome struck again & most of Petes flashguns failed to work and he was limited to close-up shots. (Hard Luck, Pete. Ed.) (Hee-Hee). At the Green Canal I waited till the others swam through then went round to the Abyss. On the return journey we took a few more shots & made our way slowly out.

Another fine day - Mark & Keith set of for home. Mike went to O.F.D. 2 with a friend of mine who ran him round the dry passages in a wet suit. I went up to the dig at the back of the South Wales hut, this was progressing well reaching about 30 foot deep. It seems promising. We will have to watch it or Lancaster Hole will not be the longest cave in Britain, very long.

Finally, I would just like to thank everyone for helping me and my duff gearout of ,Craig-A-Ffynon.

A. Hall

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