Ogof Draenen (Gilwern Passage to Hearts of Olden Glory Streamway)

4 July 2010

Posted by
Matt Ewles

A little bit of a mistake in this trip, which was originally intended to be Strawberry Passage!

We headed down at midday via the pitch bypass to Cairn Junction. Looking at the survey (of which we only had a very small scale copy) it appeared that Strawberry Passage headed off to the north from Tea Junction. Sure enough, we found a passage heading off from Tea Junction which continued in a straight line for considerable distance (far further than suggested by the survey) past some fine crystal formations on the wall, eventually ending at a junction. From here, up a slope of boulders was a huge chamber with no way on (also not on the survey for Strawberry Passage), whereas straight ahead the passage had tape across and a note requesting we don't proceed any further due to delicate formations. At this point we were feeling pretty underwhelmed by Strawberry Passage, which despite its grandeur was nowhere near as pretty as we expected and nothing like what it appeared on the survey. Were we in the wrong place or was the survey incorrect?

We were about to turn back feeling somewhat disappointed and bored, when Gary went to investigate the route of a tiny trickling streamway into a low crawl. Minutes later he shouted to follow and we navigated a route through a hideous boulder pile to emerge in stomping passage again with a small stream and thick mud banks all around (unfortunately still with the ubiquitous marker tape that seems to adorn every passage throughout the cave).

Our adventure was soon rewarded with some fine straws, and then soon after a junction was reached. Bearing left soon closed down into wet muddy crawls and we were in no mood for getting down and dirty on this trip (being knackered after Ogof Carno the previous day). Turning right however went into some fine meandering stream passage, doglegging a couple of times before reaching a boulder collapse, finally providing us with the sense of adventure and exploration we had been wanting. A route down through the boulders, and up and over them was apparant by the presence of anchors, however, as we had no idea where we were (and our callout was for Strawberry Passage, which by this point we had decided we couldn't possibly be in) we declined any acrobatic stunts and called it a day, now feeling much more satisfied with our trip.

Of course, it wasn't until that evening reading the detailed 25 page description of Draenen that we realised our huge error. Strawberry Passage does indeed appear on our shrunken survey to head off in a straight line from Tea Junction, but in fact can only be accessed at higher level by traversing around the pitch bypass and Cairn Junction. We had actually adventured up Gilwern Passage and into the Hearts of Olden Glory Streamway. A return trip to explore the furthest reaches of this area is a necessity, and maybe next time we'll actually go to the true Strawberry Passage.