Rayfad Pot  -  Co. Fermanagh

 

Thornhiil, the Irish Caving Clubs headquarters, is a fine place for a caver to dwell, a mansion surrounded by acres of greenery, woodlands & hills. Unfortunately, the weather was not
as fine as the scenery, it rained every day of our stay. We did get some trips in however. Alas the big trip, the Reyfad - Polinocrom exchange didn’t come off. Andy, Bob & Dave down Reyfad, our trio Terry Insley, Perry & myself plus Chris Wilcox down Pollnacrom. The Reyfad party had a good trip into the Aghnahoo Extention, found that enough for one trip, so they didn’t seek the link, then had grip-ups with a braiding Marlow on the entrance pitch.

 

We found Pollnacrom to be dry. The entrance pitches are good but chert nodules were to prove rough on the SRT rope despite protection. The final pitch was a straight 70 foot descent into a large, dry streamway. We spent some considerable time ferreting into various amazingly muddy crawls; none of which seemed to go. Looking for the link with Reyfad; indeed to begin with looking for any way on from the short section of passage at the foot of the pitches. A little way downstream, a waterfall, which we used to wash off in several times, entered from a high aven and the water ran away into a narrow slot that at a glance looked like a sump. Eventually this was investigated by Terry and the improbable looking slot was found to be easily passed through and past some superb formations to a fine lengthy streamway. Returning to the pitches we again searched for the “link” without success, so washing off the clinging mud for the final time we prussiked out leaving the pot rigged. We walked over to Reyfad in drizzling rain to find the others coming out and having problems, so as time was pressing and the Bush Bar was open we left them to it. The following day was spent shopping in Sligo. Saturday saw our team minus Chris hack at Pollnacrorn which we quickly de-rigged but found that my rope was so badly damaged that it had to be cut in two. So Reyfad was out with no rope long enough to get down it. We finished the day with a consolation trip in White Fathers Cave, although short, very pleasant & pretty.

 

I ‘felt rather dispirited at loosing my 250 foot rope with the realisation that the trips I most wanted to do in Fermanagh were no longer possible. Back at Thornhill, Andy & team called in on their war back from Pollnatagha and on hearing the news offered to lend us a rope from the Aghnahoo tackle store. Reyfad was suddenly on again. Sunday, over the moor again to Reyfad. An airy but easy free climb at the entrance leads to a small chamber above the big pitch. The one inch bolt mentioned in the guide book doesn’t exist, so the main belay had to be the crumbling boulder on the floor of the chamber. There were heaps of old carpet lying about used by other parties for rope protection and eventually we managed to get a good free hang. The pitch was fairly dry and easy, 180 feet down one lands on a boulder choke. An awkward wriggle through this is followed by a 70 foot into a massive dry passage strewn with boulders. We had been recommended by Andy to visit the upstream section as it was our first trip down Reyfad. The stream could be heard away to the left behind a huge block. The pool behind it looked like a sump but this was a deception and wading through the pool soon brought us into a high streamway about 3 feet wide. After a few hundred feet of one encounters a traverse section leading to a long boulder choke of angular blocks. This choke has been lined by the I.C.C., so negotiating it is no problem. Beyond we descended to stream level for a while before once again climbing up through boulders into high level chambers well decorated with straws. Passing through the chambers, sand & mud slopes led back to stream level again. This meandered on in fine style to open up suddenly into a short, wide canal. This was near to swimming depth and very chilly. A superb tube followed and ahead could be heard the roar of falling water. The cascades when we reached there were very fine; placed on a bend in the streamway, the water came crashing down drops of 8 & 12 feet and proved very sporty & slippery to climb. 200 feet forward we emerged in a monumental aven, at least 50 feet in diameter, the clean fluted walls rising out of sight in a column of spray.

 

Definitely one of the noisiest and most impressive sights I’ve seen underground. The aven, is yet un-descended, has been estimated at about 250 to 300 feet high and the stream comes from Polltullybrack. Back at the base of the pitches we sat down for a rest and some food and before going out decided to have at look downstream. One soon loses the stream and follows a huge dry, undulating passage some distance to an obvious campsite where there is a dump of food, stoves & bivi gear. The way into the Aghnahoo Extension is up a sand slope from here, but as the passage at the top looked as though it involved some messy crawling we opted out and instead decided to visit North West Inlet & Old Bog Road sections of the cave. This proved most worthwhile, massive sandy passages with wide shallow, gently flowing streamways, all very impressive. Eventually Old Bog Road ends and a choice of muddy crawls appeared to be the only way on. So not wishing to resort to crawling we retreated, decked ourselves in prussik gear and exited from the pot without problems onto a mist shrouded moor. A memorable trip, a definite “must” for any caver visiting Fermanagh.

 

D. Irons.

 

 

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