Ogof Carno to Whale Chamber

7 July 2010

Posted by
Gary Douthwaite

Carno, a cave I'd been looking forward to for ages, did not disappoint. It has to be the most unusual and interesting trip I've ever been on and I would recommend it to anyone. A good mixture of interest, easy and hard bits and a dash of excitement.

Parking right on top of the entrance we had no problem finding the obvious gated adit. The first thing that struck us was the echo. Really amazing as we heard our voices in the foreboding tunnel. Through the gate the passage extends for as far as out lights could reach with no hint of a turn or end. The first section starts with a large pipe running down one side so we were forced to walk in the small stream. After a few hundred meters, a dam is reached where the pipe turns. After the dam it's possible to follow the tunnel out of the stream which was less slippery. Still no hint of a turn. We stopped at 1000m and looked back. The light from the entrance was still clearly visible. Still no hint of a turn!

The tunnel changed from time to time with the perfect brickwork ending and a change to mined rock walls. At about 1300m the spoil heaps at the side started and at 1500m we got to the sign-in book. At this point there is a deep pit on the right with winding gear on the left. After signing in we continued to 1700m where the dig spoil increased and the gap in the right hand wall leading to the natural cave was found. Even at this distance the light from the entrance was still clear.

Climbing down the mined shaft entered a small but not too bad blasted crawl to the head of a fixed steel ladder. The ladder ended in a large passage Carno's Last Stand with the way on down a hole in the floor at one end. At this point the water is entered we'd heard about a duck and were expecting to have to get wet (or turn around) but after some distance and stepping out of the water we hadn't found it! It seems that the water was so low, we didn't even notice it!

Easy passage through Spongework to the Greasy Pot, which was indeed greasy! Slightly more awkward passage emerges in the impressive Dune Chamber, then on through some crawls to the head of Silo Pitch. Again, a fixed ladder but this time a normal aluminium extension ladder which had been cunningly cut and re-bolted back together to fit into the cave. More easy passage to the Brickyard where we found a rope hanging down leading to Over the Moon passage but we opted for the more obvious way on to Cough and Drop. This rather impressive passage offers a nice respite before entering Full Moon Crawl which actually isn't so bad and only takes about 10 mins. The crawl is worth it as it emerges in a much larger area leading up to our goal for the day - Knob Alley. The 'Black Mans Knob' was, however rather un-impressive, but worth seeing, even just for the name! We managed to convince Chuck to pose for a photo with his mouth over it! A return route though Whale Chamber completed our trip before heading out for ice cream!

Defiantly one to come back to as we barely scratched the surface of the very extensive cave system. We all felt suitably tired afterwards, but there was nothing overly difficult in the route we took. The hardest part was probably Full Moon Crawl.

Tip for the future: don't get half way down a 1.7km passage to find you've left your car key at the other end! :p