Depth through thought

OUCC News 17th February 1993

Volume 3, number 5

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Some of you will already know that OUCC rather hit the exploration jackpot this week end in Carno. You can read my version of events below. Fun was also had in Craig a Ffynnon and OFD). The WSG hut at Penderyn proved a great week end venue, so thanks to them for their hospitality and tolerance. However, I understand there is a cure for snoring.


Big finds in Carno...

Buzzed up by the encouraging finds at the top of the Aven I had been aid climbing (mostly...) for some time now, I returned on Saturday 13th February with Tony and Chris to add a second ladder to the pitch, and push on through the tight comer where I had left things. As my memory of how the climb used to be fades I realise that it really is a miserable thrutch of the pitch ("Thrutching the void"), so Chris was detailed to put in a back-up bolt. This left Tony and me to have a quick look at the Southern rift which I had so far Left largely untouched, believing its direction not as promising as the Eastwards crawl. Tony led. The rift continued through a narrow section. which is really a bit of a shag on the way back (hence now named "The Cormorant"), and needs to be traversed high. As predicted, it widened over a long drop. But, to my surprise, Tony promptly disappeared to the left. What? "Tim, you'll like this".

Immediately beyond the cormorant a large, clean black passage headed off to the East. Up went the adrenaline, but there was more to come. We followed the high level passage past turns and junctions for about 90 metres, before a stoop suddenly brought us into a huge chamber (not yet named) running North-South. Its about 5 metres wide, and perhaps 25 metres long, narrowing northwards into a large continuing passage. Its large flat sandy floor is a perfect place for a camp, and it even has formations (well, a few). Too much. We returned to fetch Chris, then continued on up the main northwards passage until this direction ended in a flat out squeeze into a weird round chamber with a promising boulder choke dig at the far end. This, surely, was the next North-South main passage in the long series that punctuates every major cave under the mountain. Those of you who were around last Wednesday may have been witness to the great wafts of Carno bullshit pervading pubs and houses all across Jericho. I must admit, when I woke up heavy headed on Thursday I thought I had rather over done the enthusiasm, and was a bit worried that Chris and Tony had been persuaded to come under false pretences. And as for that bit about finding the stream...

But psychospeliogenesis was at work. The passage turned East just before the squeeze, and continued down a climb to a junction. A lovely shaped rift headed South, back to the main chamber by a different route, and North into the mountain. We followed it, and began to lose height, gaining mud into the bargain. Eventually, we emerged at a point overlooking a long green lake, with a brilliant looking, but rather intimidating traverse over the top and heading into the darkness. No go today. However, Chris noticed an opening above us. and we soon romping along open passage again: another 80 metres of sandy floored phreatic stoop, with a good draught. Then it dropped again into a sizeable hole, and below us, another lake. Or was it? With my brighter light (plug for the FX5) I gawped down to notice that the water was flowing, fast. We had found a stream. Unable to contain ourselves, we went back for the bolt kit and a ladder. Of course, everybody wanted to be first down, so we decided that those down first would keep their mouths shut until the others followed - a bit silly really, but then the whole situation seemed a bit unreal. The stream, promptly disappeared into a sump at either end after only a few metres. The low, arching passage giving the feel that we were near the water table. So we called it a day, and, after poking our heads into various other high level leads, headed out completely exhausted, ready for the drive over to Penderyn.

Sunday. Despite welcome WSG hospitality, bodies ached badly on Sunday morning. Nevertheless, Tim and Tony joined Gavin and Urs for a return trip. Gavin and Urs were to go ahead and start the surveying, but when Tony and I reached the top of the climb we could hear them thumping about down the Eastern crawl. They had gone the wrong way. They emerged back out of "red herring crawl" and we set off together to measure caverns measureless. Urs and Gavin surveyed back from the stream whilst Tony and I attempted the lake traverse ("Tumbling Bay"). A bold push by Tony left us with a 21 metre traverse line on three bolts, using a 20 metre rope, to a false floor. A further 10 metres, and the passage open down onto the stream once more. This time we Tony had to go and fetch the ladder of the other bit of stream while I placed a bolt. 15 foot below the stream, to our surprise, flowed in a long sweep to the north, ending in a long low sump. So, our lake turns out to be a huge rising sump, according to Gavin's survey roughly East of the other piece of stream. Anyone fancy carrying bottles? The obvious way on, however, is a continuation of the high level dry passage beyond the traverse. This week end we hope to return to bolt our way across. Who knows what's on the far side.

Members of the Brynmawr Caving Club, under who's auspices we are allowed into the cave, also broke through their dig to the east near the entrance on Sunday. They found 50 metres of passage ending in an undescended 8 metre Ditch. What a week end. Thanks to them for all the help and encouragement, and Jim, Noel, and Jenny for their stints of hideous rope duty,
Tim Guilford.

Ogof Craig a Ffynonn

This is what caving should be about, non of that interminable scrofulous grovelling through Daren's entrance, no desperate human fly antics in Southern Discomfort, nor the endless tedium of Aggy. Sylvia, Fenella, Rob and myself scooted through the fog from Penderyn to meet up with John and Ann from GOCAF who were off to dig in a side passage in The Hall of the Mountain King. The gated entrance leads through a section of dug passage but quickly enlarges and picks up the stream. The passage Leads upstream through the first boulder choke (a scaffolding tower, nothing serious). Formations started to get more profuse as we left the main streamway and headed up to the second boulder choke by way of full and games on the rope climb. The Second boulder choke is a more serious affair and has recently been redug after a partial collapse. And we were into the big stuff, HUGE straws, lovely flowstone flows and gours and mud formations and helectites and even bigger passage and finally into the Hall of the Mountain King. This is the end of the serious pretties but the best is yet to come. 500 feet of crawling through Hurricane Passage bypasses the 3rd choke and leads into the Severn Tunnel 1-1.5m wide 3-6m high sandy floored and dead straight a wonderful romp though really nice crystal spattered passage. This finally ended at a junction complex, we took a right turn and headed back into the big stuff more mud and boulder strewn chambers lead to choke 3.5 a walk over a boulder pile, then big stuff lead up to choke 4. Et In Arcadia. We stopped here, beyond lies the Promised Land, big bouldery trunk passage leading into the heart of Llangattock. We headed out pausing to have a look at the latest dig site and for more fun and games on the climb below the 2nd choke. We exited into pallid winter sunshine with the fog and cloud swirling around the Clydach gorge below to sample yet another delightful aspect of this cave, a splendid fountain were I washed of the little bit of OCAF mud and vast gobbets of 2 week old Carno mud.
Jim Ramsden