Monday, 16 November 2015

Ogof Marros - a new cave discovery

Team: Phil Knight, Andy Freem, Antonia Freem, Michael Perryman, Ash Pursglove, Claire Vivian, Duncan Hornby, Emily Ivans, Storm Morris Fred Cook and David Kelvey.

A team of SWCC members and friends have been digging near Pendine in West Wales over the last year and have now gained access into what is likely to be a major cave system in West Wales, to be known as Ogof Marros.

Local caver Phil Knight and friends had spotted a potential entrance and had begun exploring once permission had been gained from the farmer whose land the entrance was on. Over several months the team was expanded with much of the initial digging done by those who lived locally.

By the end of May 2015, progress was blocked by a flat out bedding crawl, that would later be known as Fred’s Despair, due to Fred’s inability to fit through, unless as he said “his children were on the other side and in trouble”. On 6/6/2015 Antonia and Claire passed through Fred’s Despair, with helmets off as they would not fit through. The squeeze ended in a tight ninety degree bend which those of a taller persuasion would have found impossible to pass. Having got through, and being the only members of the team who could fit through the crawl, Antonia and Claire explored the chamber and passage beyond.

Antonia exploring the new passage, viewed from Fred’s Despair. The way on is to the left and then a crawl through boulders to reach Antonia’s Grotto, the limit of exploration that day.

Claire popping out through the flat out crawl, Fred’s Despair. The pagoda style rocks on the right, which forced a 90 degree bend, have now been removed. 

A well decorated area was reached, this was named Antonia’s Grotto. We also had a discovery of a grotto around the corner by Ash and this is now known as Ash’s Grotto.

Unusual bent formation which had a rude name to start with, but is now known as the Lama. 

The diggers’ campsite.

Following a draft down through boulders near the grotto, Claire was the first to push the section now know as Claire’s Clamber which ultimately lead towards the descent into the first choke. This was a climb down through boulders of around 2.5m reaching a small chamber on the right (now full of boulders dug out from the choke). The removal of a boulder, with the lifting assistance of Andy, Ash and Antonia enabled a second smaller chamber to be discovered and a drafting way on looking likely against a solid wall.

Surface de-brief and survey sketching. 

Antonia Freem climbing out of Claire’s Clamber.

Many months were spent following a draught through a progressively dangerous choke with one false lead, pit one, that nearly squashed Ash and then tried to turn Phil in to a smear. This led to digging at the end of the rift after lots of rock “tetris”. Essential scaffolding was purchased and put into place in the newly named Sciatica Shaft (following back problems experienced by several members of the team). Three Man Chamber, at the base of Sciatica Shaft, has now become a storage area for recalcitrant boulders after pit one became filled. It is also a convenient place to store digging kit waiting to be put into good use.

Several attempts were made to push towards the water which could clearly be heard. Some potential ways on were abandoned as they were simply too dangerous to follow, including the Chamber of Terrors.

It became a regular event that the team would dig like crazy, retreat with shattered nerves and Andy passing judgement of the next best course of action.

Emily Ivans cutting scaffolding to size ready for protecting the dig.

By July 2015 the team had gained access to a stream within the boulders and had seen an obvious way on with a tantalising view of stalagmites. With a bit of work the way forward became just passable in the stream. Whilst under the protection of boulders in the constriction, Andy tested a rock up in the ceiling and several boulders dislodged. The following month was spent removing this pile of boulders which were blocking the view beyond.

A team returned to the cave on 21/10/15 to try to move one final boulder. The boulder had spent many weeks working its way from the roof, swinging and teetering before falling and blocking the way on. In a very confined space Antonia managed to drill a hole into the boulder, place a bolt and tie a rope into it. Andy and Duncan pulled whilst Phil rocked the boulder with a crowbar. It was finally manoeuvred and bought within safe working distance, thus securing the name of ‘Back to the Future’ for the newly ventured part of the choke. Upon exiting the cave for the day Phil mentioned it was his birthday! He would have to wait 2 days before he could open his present!

On 23/10/15 the team returned with Claire and proceeded to take it in turns to drill then plug ‘n’ feather the boulder. This was frustrating and a very intense experience as one would be laying flat out in a stream, no room to manoeuvre, under some probably less than secure protection!

By lunch time the boulder was destroyed with much of the credit going to Phil!

Exiting the choke requires a flat out crawl in the stream in a very restricted area.

Antonia and Claire, were first through, whilst Andy, Phil and Duncan remained on the outside of the choke. Who said chivalry was dead, ladies first!

Antonia and Claire had taken a walkie talkie through and were describing the scene, we sat in the choke gobbed smacked listening to their description. They were joined by Phil and off they went down the newly named Wildest Dreams passage. About 30 minutes later they returned and the ladies came back and Andy and Duncan joined Phil.

We pushed to the limits of where Antonia and Claire had reached and had left a going lead as they had felt they had their share of first discoveries and we entered a large stream passage.

Phil Knight and Andy Freem in large stream passage.

We headed back to the choke and Phil and Andy were replaced by Antonia and Claire. We went back to the large stream passage and headed up stream, it was clear that it was heading nearer the surface and we completed the first round trip in the cave.

Antonia Freem and Claire Vivian at the upstream limits of our initial exploration.

Some of the best formations were just downstream of the choke, one a twiglet like formation defying gravity.

Andy Freem admiring “twiglet” formation downstream of boulder choke.

Our remaining time in the cave was spent standing on a boulder strewn floor, looking down a 3m climb, trying to ascertain the best route to the ground below, where the stream was visible, flowing off down a passage into the distance. A visit by Phil and Ash the next day showed that this passage was blocked some 20m further on by another choke.

We all came out feeling “shell shocked” having just discovered 300-400m of passageway in a totally new cave system. After much group hugging and jumping up and down the adrenaline started to wear off, we went back to the car got changed and had a celebratory fish ‘n’ chips. I don’t think any of us slept well that night!

Since then we have gone on and explored beyond the climb on the way to the second choke. A new round trip has been found, along with another pretty grotto. More has also been discovered upstream. Antonia, Phil and Claire pushed the area near the original limit of upstream exploration and found a further c.25m of generally crawling sized passage amongst boulders beyond “Tickled Trout” Inlet. A small upper level passage, near this area was also pushed by Antonia and Claire, past a tricky 90 degree bend, until it was found to end at a small inlet cascade. A very pretty crystal pool was also discovered in the floor of a small chamber (Crystal Carpet Chamber) near the ‘unshattered pillar’. Phil and Ash were the first to spot and name ‘Jimmy’ the trout in the streamway. Since then, 2 more trout have been sighted in different locations.

Jimmy the trout in the streamway. 

It is hoped a more detailed article is to be published in Descent. The cave is locked, please use the email below if members are interested in seeing the cave and supporting the discovery.


Now you have read the blog watch the movie of its discovery!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

SWCC Provisionals’ Weekend November 2015 - Piers crawls his way into his 40's...

It was a grey and drizzly weekend at Penwyllt, but still some 17 provisional members made the trek to SWCC to take part in this weekend's caving exploits. All these were either brand new to caving, or experienced cavers new to the club itself. Some of these members went to extraordinary lengths to come to SWCC for the weekend and these efforts certainly deserve to be recognised here. We had Brendan Hoare who flew over from Dublin to join us, Chris Taylor who made an heroic cycle ride - carrying all his kit - from Neath Railway Station to Penwyllt in driving rain and fog and Heledd Griffiths who found herself having to take a coach back to London at 3.30am Monday morning in order to arrive at work there in time for an 8.30am start. That’s without mentioning Stewart and Taine Avey who also came and caved with us for 5 hours, despite knowing that they would have no sleep that night as they were photographing a night rally!

As well as the excellent turnout from provisional members, a whole load of fireworks went up in smoke and Piers turned 40! This was all lubricated by 3 barrels of beer supplied by what I can only assume is the mysterious beer barrel fairy…

Honestly where does the beer come from? The beer was complemented by tasty curry cooked up by Team “Annie”.

Although there were multiple provisional trips over the weekend the following are descriptions provided by Claire and Duncan.


Saturday morning Provisionals and trip leaders met in the long common room and all were introduced to each other then assigned to their respective groups based upon experience, ranging from total beginners to hardened expedition cavers.

Duncan lead a trip into Cwm Dwr, a special trip as it was Piers’ 40th birthday trip and a trip he had not done for some time. Jon and Paul, provisionals but capable cavers completed the team. Originally it was going to be a through trip but the bad weather made that impossible. We visited the Confluence, the river was up by a metre and tanking through. The approach to the confluence was a bit eerie as the sound reverberating in the passage sounded like any second a flood pulse was going to come hurtling around the corner and take us all out...

The confluence, definitely not the day to do a through trip!

Piers, Jon and Paul just upstream of the confluence

We back tracked up to the Smithy and entered Piccadilly then down to the other end of flood by-pass. We were amazed at how much foam there was and the height it had reached.

Piers at flood by-pass with foam up to 3m high on the walls.

We did a quick visit to Heol Eira and headed back out of Cwm Dwr for another knee grinding exit.

Piers now deciding he wished he had never gone on the trip!

James Hallihan decided he would like a chance to lead a group of beginner cavers in OFD2 so that he could both practice his route finding in the cave and perfect his group management skills. At only 11 years old, but already having an impressive 8 years’ worth of caving experience under his belt, James would be our youngest caver, let alone cave leader. Two more experienced cavers came along on the trip to ensure that no problems would arise, but they kept their interfering to a minimum so that James would have the full experience. He did admirably well, which was no surprise to anyone on his trip. The new cavers on the trip were Stewart and his son,Taine (12 years old) and Kate. Phil and Claire came along to make up the numbers.

James and Taine

James showing the new cavers that squeezes are not to be feared.

The trip went well throughout. Taine, a budding photographer, saw plenty of places he would like to come back and photograph one day and had a great sense of adventure trying every aspect of caving involved in the day, even the traversing, which he had been fearing. We will return one day to have a go at the crawls, so that he has a fuller sense of what can be involved in caving.

The group near the Wedding Cake

Taine in Swamp Creek 

Stewart enjoyed trying to learn the route and seeing Taine have fun. Kate conquered some fears along the way and showed a vast improvement in the way she moved through the cave, gaining in confidence as the trip went on. We also met Jo White and her group using her OFD huff to navigate in the Entrance Series. You can get yours from the Publications cupboard, priced at £9 each and also available in Cwm Dwr design as well.

Jo using her OFD huff to navigate

The new cavers even opted to extend their trip by a short while through tagging on a visit to the Mini Columns at the end. A total time of 5 hours was spent underground.

James wearing the burden of leadership and the group returning to the surface
Other trips that day were completed by Adrian and Kate, who took Andrew and Chris around OFD1; Iain took Colin, Brendan, Heledd and Rhys on a round trip in Top Entrance and Tim took Chloe, Will and Phill on a tour around OFD2.

Saturday evening went with a bang! Loads of fireworks were let off, beer was drunk and curry scoffed! Piers got an excellent Birthday cake and long room packed out as everyone sung happy birthday with the Cwm Dwr crawl a distance memory!

Excellent firework show and no one lost a limb...

As always the party went on late and much drinking done!

Mr Alderman “photo bombing”without spilling his pint!


Duncan enjoyed the Cwm Dwr crawl so much that he went and did it again on Sunday. This time with provisionals Steve and Phill. Just as we were about to leave Phil Knight joined the trip. This trip was successful for two reasons; Steve learnt more of the route through Cwm Dwr and I managed with the help of the team, and advice from Mark Burkey, to visit a part of the system new to me called Tapioca which had stunning white formations.

Catrin, Vaughan and Claire took Rhys and Heledd in to OFD1 for a trip on the Escape Route, being as the river was still on the sporting side. This went well with Vaughan and Cat consolidating their knowledge of OFD1 and Rhys and Heledd enjoying the different challenges of the trip, including using cowstails for the first time.

Antonia took Colin, Brendan, Chloe and Will in to OFD1 for their first visit. Having managed to stagger the groups fairly well, both OFD1 teams only actually got to be within chatting distance on one occasion.

Damian took Andrew on a trip around Top Entrance and Chris joined Jo and her team of cavers on a trip to Speedy Caver and the Bedding Chambers.

Top Left: the team looking at foam near Pluto’s Bath.
Top Right: Heledd and Vaughan in Bolt Passage
Bottom Left: Roundabout Chamber.

Many thanks to all who led trips on the weekend:

Adrian Brown, Kate Brown, Catrin Budd, Vaughan Budd, Antonia Freem, Piers Hallihan, James Hallihan, Duncan Hornby, Phil Hughes, Phil Knight, Tim Lewingdon, Iain Miller, Damian Thomas, Claire Vivian, Jo White.

New provisional members to watch out for:

Stewart Avey, Taine Avey, Andrew Baldwin, Paul Edwards, Kate Furness, Heledd Griffiths, Rhys Griffiths, Steve Hepple, Brendan Hoare, Colin Hoare, Chris Jones, Chloe Partridge, Will O’Connor, Jon Tatton, Chris Taylor, Phill Thomas, Andrew Williams.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Cave Leading

On Saturday 7th November, we went down to the long common room of the South Wales Caving Club to meet the provisionals for the weekend. We went round in turn saying who we are, how long we've been caving and where we are from. All of the members who had much experience in caving, led a trip into different parts of Ogof Fynnon Ddu. With the help of two other experienced cavers, I led a trip down to two formations called the Trident and the Judge. On our way back we took a little detour to got to the mini columns and they are  spectacular. Normally we go down a crawl called the sandy crawl and go up a stream called Salubrious but someone didn't like the crawl so we went up and down Salubrious. About fifty metres away from the Judge there is a spectacular stream called Swamp Creek, all along it there is some awesome calcite curtains. Once we reached the Judge we decided to have a look at Swamp Creek. I think everyone finished the trip without any injuries. Everyone thought it was an extremely good experience and I hope that the others will carry on caving and agree with me with what I said just now. 

By James H age 11

Friday, 6 November 2015

OFD 2 Photo Trip, 4.11.15

SWCC: Stewart Avey, Paul Tarrant, Claire Vivian

Just for a bit of variety we had a photo trip in Top Entrance tonight (when we found it in the mist), instead of the usual caving trip. Paul and Stewart were eager to try out new photographic equipment and techniques. Paul had a new camera and flashguns, whilst Stewart was taking some of his first photos underground and using light painting. Here are the results of this:

Paul - using flashguns

 Stewart - using light painting


Photographing the resting photographers.