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Saturday December 15th

North York Moors Jet Mines

Ade, Andy B, Chris, Pants, Gary, Ian, Jerry, John C, John D, Laura, Matt E, Living Joke, Philip, Rachel, Richard W, Tegs

20 photos by Gary...

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Sunday December 9th

Croesor Rhosydd (mine)

Ali, theyorkshireminer, Chuck, Gary, Ian, Jerry, John C, John D, Matt E, Rachel, Tegs, Toby

Matt E wrote...

Croesor Rhosydd through trip – A slate mine underground adventure.

I have done this trip several times now and now feel the need to update my description last edited in 2011 to reflect some changes to the state of this mine as of December 2018. This description should prove useful to others looking to complete the trip.

Croesor Rhosydd is a through trip from Croesor mine to Rhosydd mine. It is not a very long distance underground, but requires a number of obstacles to be passed including underground lakes and pits with a variety of in-situ ropes and wires to facilitate progress. Despite many of the required items being in-situ it is prudent to take your own ropes and boat ‘just in case’ as well as several items of emergency gear (e.g. buoyancy aid and spare rope in case anyone falls into the water).

This trip is often treated as a simple jolly, but do not underestimate the danger presented here compared to your average mine or caving trip. The in-situ ropes and wires have failed in the past and will fail again, and their condition changes massively in just the space of a year. The slate too is in a constant state of collapse. Inspect everything carefully and have backups.

See the list at the end of this report for suggested equipment to carry.

In terms of what to wear; standard caving gear is perfectly fine. Other than the walk up, you are unlikely to get too warm. If you are a large group (>8) it can get cold waiting around at each obstacle, and the entire trip can take as much as 4-5 hours, depending on how much you detour from the main route for sightseeing and photos (there is plenty to see off the trade route). You should not get wet (other than perhaps some above-welly water on exiting Rhosydd adit), but there is a strong cold breeze through the mine in winter. Dress appropriately; gloves are essential for protection.

Some people prefer to park as for neighbouring Cwmorthin and walk to Croesor from there (a longer initial walk but shorter walk back from Rhosydd). However I feel the best approach is from Croesor village.

Park at Croesor car park (free) and walked up from there; follow the road along the valley for a few hundred metres and fork right in the uphill direction. A 50-minute walk up a continuous but gentle incline eventually reaches Croesor quarry buildings. This is probably the most physically demanding part of the day! The entrance adit is located between a few buildings on the right under the cliff face, and is mostly collapsed all except a small entrance hole on the left of the passage.

Following the entrance adit for a few hundred metres through an old gate (ignoring a left turn) reaches the first area of interest - an old brick built room in the corner of a wide open chamber. Further on, on the right hand side a short passage reached an enormous flooded chamber with an eerie deep lake. Those with ample time can take their boat across to explore chambers beyond; a worthwhile diversion.

Ignore this and continue ahead to reach a climb up a walled structure (with several in-situ ropes to pull on; many of very dubious integrity).

You are then at the bottom of a long slope with a huge pipe down the left hand side. Follow this uphill, past various areas of collapse. A few windows on the right lead to a drop into the previously seen massive cathedral chamber and lake; a great view! However, the way on is to follow the slope all the way to the top, where the first pitch is found on the left.

The in-situ rope on the first pitch, as of December 2018, is in reasonable condition and the anchors are reassuring. Thank you to the installer for placing these for the benefit of everyone. The bottom of the rope has some defects and is seriously distorted, caused no doubt by people abseiling on Italian hitches. Please don’t do that folks! However, the ‘bad’ section is only reached upon floor touchdown, and the rest of the rope is in good condition. Keep well clear of the bottom as each person descends due to lots of loose slate on a shelf part way down.

We recommend taking your own rope (30m) for this just in case the in-situ rope is damaged (pull it up before use to check). You can always walk back after your trip via the Croesor entrance and run in to derig the rope (which takes only 10 minutes). The anchors are not well placed for a pull-through and this is not recommended.

A 100m scramble across the slate-strewn enormous chamber reaches a slope descending through a huge archway on the right hand side, the head of the second pitch. The in-situ rope is belayed in the most bizarre but reassuring way around several blocks. The rope drops over the edge via a deviation which holds the rope over some plastic sheeting bolted to the rock edge. The rope was in very good condition in December 2018, but again, taking your own rope (30m) is recommended in case of any damage since incurred by the in-situ rope. In general the second pitch in-situ rope has always been in better condition than the first on all my previous visits.

From the bottom of the pitch, continue downhill to the lake, the site of the original metal zip-wire. The zip wire was a 30m metal wire spanning the lake, but snapped in November 2017!!! This should be a reminder of the vulnerability of metal wires which can rust from the inside out!!!

Some generous person has since replaced the zip wire with a tensioned rope system, which we found to have been improved upon for our visit this year. There are now two well-tensioned ropes spanning the lake, one 8 inches above the other. These should be tackled ideally using two double pulleys (e.g. Petzl Tandem), one on each rope and joined by a krab between them. Not only does using two ropes reduce sagging in the middle of the line (and thus avoid a dunking in the water) but of course it also provides a backup if one rope snaps… a very real possibility given their tension!

If you only have one double-pulley then use the higher rope, and clip a cowstail into the other to trail behind as a backup; however, be prepared for a possible arse-skim across the water for anyone >75 kg as one rope will stretch much more than two and will sag more in the middle. Getting the pulley attached directly to your harness main maillion will keep you as high up as possible, although this may involve some acrobatics to get on and off the pulley at each side.

It is nonetheless an exciting few seconds zip across the lake; keep your fingers clear of the pulleys and rope (it is tempting to grab on to the pulleys or rope… don’t… keep hands out to your side).

For returning the pulley it is important to weight it with a couple of steel krabs so it doesn’t flip-up when unloaded (it is intrinsically top-heavy), which may prevent it being pulled back across the line. Attach the pulley system to some cord (at least 40m) and let that pay-out as the person zips across the rope; careful not to get your foot around it, or you’re going for a ride too! Use the cord to pull the pulley back for the next person; last across of course, remove the cord.

Immediately beyond the lake is a raised suspension bridge across a second lake; a splendid piece of work. On my first visit here 10 years ago this had collapsed into the lake, but was raised several years ago; again thanks to the folks making this possible.

Following the obvious stomping route on from here (on the left at the back of the cavern). This reaches after a few minutes (passing through several chambers with a choice of two routes) the first of three lakes that must be crossed. Ten years ago all three of these had reasonably sound bridges across comprising the original wooden supports; however, time and traffic has taken its toll on these.

This first bridge is the easiest as it still has a reasonably solid wooden strut all the way across it, which can be traversed while clipped into an in-situ safety line.

The second bridge has absolutely nothing to walk across at all and is consequently passed by a traverse on in-situ ropes around the outside of the lake. The first section is easy but the second bit is extremely strenuous indeed and it is quite hard to pull yourself up onto the ledge at the other side. Note that the in-situ rope on this second section is anchored by only one bolt!!! Check it carefully. Alternatively a rope is installed for use with a pulley to cross the lake, but again, the anchoring of this is dubious and it looked a bit saggy; treat with caution.

The third bridge has undergone extensive collapse over recent years. One wooden timber (reinforced by a ladder laid flat) is all that remains and I would not recommend using this as its days are numbered! Instead two metal wires, one to walk along and one to hold onto have been fitted for a high traverse, which is quite easy to use. I recommend clipping into at least two separate things though as the upper cable showed some serious rusting where it anchors to the middle section of the crossing and might break in future (remember the snapped zip line earlier). There was a separate rope spanning the crossing which was a good second belay point to put a long cowstail into.

Immediately beyond the third bridge, the main lake is reached, where one must abseil 4m down a fixed rope into a boat on a lake of pale blue water. The lake is 50m long, and the boats are pulled from one side to another by some in-situ polyprop cord. We found no boats waiting, however, on pulling on the cord, a Canadian canoe loomed out of the darkness, which I believe has been in place for several years now without sinking. It did the job absolutely fine, taking two people at once (you could maybe manage three). Carrying your own inflatable boat is nonetheless highly recommended in case anything ever happens to the canoe; it will no doubt sink one day! Ensure to have some buoyancy aids to hand in the boat (life jackets or an inflated rubber ring); falling into the icy water in SRT kits will not end well at all!

On the opposite side of the lake, dismount the boat and immediately ascend a 4m pitch (in situ rope) into the continuing passage. This passes two loose slopes going up on the right hand side. Taking the SECOND one is the way on, and at the top this soon reaches a wall where you cross over into Rhosydd mine. An old turntable at the bottom of a large incline is passed; there is some very intact winching gear at the top of the incline for those with the energy to go up there for a look.

Ignoring the incline, following straight on through a slate collapse in the main onward passage, which must be carefully negotiated to pop out into a huge chamber with daylight/moonlight visible from above. This is the way up to the Rhosydd Twll entrance. Exiting here is not recommended however; not only is the Twll depression remarkably hard to escape from (it is a steep sided crater) but also this deposits you on the middle of a featureless moor, and it is extremely hard to find the way back to the Croesor footpath in all but perfect visibility (which it never is up there).

Instead, climb a short distance up towards daylight (do not go straight down to floor level) but then at the far side of the chamber descend back down to floor level to the continuing mine passage. This reaches another chamber with light coming in from above, and a slope leading down on the left. Continue straight ahead into a final chamber with another slope leading down on the left; go down this second slope. Descend the slope until a passage leads off through a window on the right; take this passage to cross into a much bigger steeply descending passage which should be followed all the way to the bottom of the incline.

At the bottom, go right to join the Rhosydd stream (which may be dry in summer). The way out to Rhosydd adit is now left (downstream) along a perfectly straight passage for approximately 400m. Daylight is visible for the entire distance (if of course it is still light outside). For those seeking to explore however, there is lots to see in the other direction before you exit.

Exiting at Rhosydd adit, turn 90o left and walk for about 100m, though various collapsed mine buildings, to locate the main footpath to Croesor. Go left along this and follow for a few km. This footpath takes a lower route back along the valley than the original route you took up earlier. As you approach Croesor village, a stile/gate on the right leads down through a field towards a house and the road leading into the village.

In poor visibility/the dark the navigation coming out of Rhosydd can be disorientating. A GPS programmed to Croesor village or mine entrance is useful, the latter particularly so if needing to return there to pop in and derig any of your own ropes that you installed on the two pitches.

Essential equipment for the trip (other than standard caving gear especially including gloves and SRT kits) includes:

(A) Steel double pulley (two ideally for optimum performance, but one is sufficient)

(B) A steel karabiner each (to clip into metal wires, and to use to weight the pulley to prevent it flipping upside down when nobody is on it when pulling back across the lake).

(C) A couple of slings; no specific purpose but useful to have.

(D) 45m of cord, string or fishing line, ideally on some kind of reel for very quick reeling out on the zip wire (this needs to automatically reel off so the person holding it doesn't get their hand ripped off when someone launches themselves across the zip line).

(E) 2 x 30m ropes and some krabs/maillions (7-8) to rig the two pitches in the event that the in-situ rope is found to be defective.

(F) A 15m emergency rope and a buoyancy aid (lifejackets or rubber ring) in case anyone falls into some water.

(G) Inflatable boat with pump in case the in-situ canoe isn’t there.

(H) GPS to fix the Croesor entrance or Croesor village in case of poor visibility on exiting.


Simplified walkthrough:

(A) From the entrance adit follow obvious route straight ahead, across a large wide chamber then climb up the walled structure and to the top of the long steep slope.

(B) First pitch at top of slope on the left (in-situ rope; check carefully or install your own).

(C) Scramble through huge chamber to second pitch under huge archway on right (in situ rope but again, check carefully and install your own if needed).

(D) Lake is immediately reached 30m from bottom of second pitch; use double pulley(s) to cross; see details above for recommended strategy.

(E) 10m Lake is immediately reached; cross via in-situ bridge.

(F) Follow obvious stomping mine tunnel at back of chamber on left for a few minutes (via several very large chambers; a choice of two routes) to first bridge, easy traverse.

(G) Next bridge soon reached; this is now a hanging traverse around the right side (awkward).

(H) Final bridge is then reached, less of a bridge and more of a high wire traverse. Clip into rope as well as metal wire due to some severe rusting on the wire observed.

(I) Final lake is immediately reached; abseil into boat (in situ canoe, but take your own inflatable just in case) and cross lake.

(J) Prussik up 4m on in-situ rope beyond the lake.

(K) Ascend the SECOND steep sloping passage on right.

(L) Follow main route past a knocked-through wall and then turntable with incline on right (ignore). Then crawl through a slate block collapse in the main passage into huge chamber with light entering from the Twll entrance above; ascend chamber a little and cross to far side, before descending to floor level and ongoing passage.

(N) Follow passage through two more open-air chambers; take the SECOND descending passage on the left (in the second chamber).

(O) Take passage through window on right part way down the slope to cross over into another steeply descending incline; follow all the way to the bottom.

(P) Turn right to meet Rhosydd adit passage; then go left (downstream) and follow in perfect straight line for 400m to the exit.

13th December 2018

Matt Ewles

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Saturday December 8th

Aberllefenni Slate Mine

Ali, theyorkshireminer, Chuck, Gary, Ian, Jerry, John C, John D, Matt E, Rachel, Tegs, Toby

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Sunday October 7th

Rumbling Hole

Aileen, John D, Les, Toby

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Saturday August 25th

Ogof Craig-a-Ffynnon

Ade, Chuck, Gary, Matt E, Toby, Will

Matt E wrote...

Having been caving in South Wales for 14 years on regular occasions, I am embarrased to say that I have only ever considered Craig-A-Ffynnon (CAF) to be a Sunday bimble to Hall of the Mountain King.

Beyond there however if a huge amount more cave leading to the Promised Land. I had heard stories about it and how hard it was. I had assumed it was gruesome caving. But after a little research it all sounded perfectly pleasant, and it was finally time to venture further into this cave.

We arrived at Park Farm campsite on Friday for some beers and not too much of a late night. We were up and away and parked up for CAF by 10:30am and underground soon after. We rattled through all the fine mixture of large passages, chokes and climbs reaching Hall of the Mountain King in no time at all.

Onward the route into Hurricane Highway was easy to find, and this was followed by an easy but unexciting 200-250m of dry crawling on smooth mud. But once this was over we were into massive passage. We spent the next four hours exploring a fantastic network of huge stompy stompy excellent passages, with few routefinding issues and some stunning formations to boot.

We got almost to the end of Promised Land, to a large chamber, with only 50-100m to go to the end, which our description suggested was not worth the bother. We had time also to visit the other branches including the Pagoda formation, Helictite Rift and the Fifth Choke. We were out after a total of 8hr underground including photography.

A trip to The Promised Land is fairly long, but relatively easy caving. It is mostly big stomping passage, nothing nasty (no really tight squeezes or wet bits) and is frankly some of the most inspirational caving I've done in Wales. It stands up well against it's neighbouring systems. It was the highlight of the weekend (which as it rained Sunday and we did nothing is not hard) but was well worth the drive from York alone.

Matt E


Ps. Below is a routefinding description that may be useful to anyone in the future:



Ogof Craig A Ffynnon

Tackle:
None for experienced groups confident in free-climbs; there are in-site ropes/ladders on all pitches including the one down to the Promised Land. A pair of cowstails on a belt will provide some reassurance on the climbs for those less confident.

Clothing:
The worst you should get in Craig A Ffynnon is wet hands/arms and feet in Gasoline Alley. Normal undersuit and oversuit are therefore fine. There is little opportunity to get cold. The cave is however extremely muddy. Kneepads and gloves essential.

Half way along the Heads of the Valley Road (A465) from Brynmawr to Gilwern, a higher level minor road is found passing through the tiny hamlets of Blackrock and Cheltenham (aka. Clydach North). Half way between the two, where the road comes right next to (but 20m above) the A465 there is a parking layby near some iron kilns. Park here, walk east along the road for 50m and follow a path on the left which leads up to a limestone cliff. Follow the path for about 250m and you will locate the obvious entrance of Craig-A-Ffynnon a 3m scramble up into an alcove in the cliff face.

The entrance is locked, and access controlled by MLCMAC. Obtaining permission requires a complex maneuver involving sending a cheque, SAE and application form which will result in the issuing of a key (thankfully YCC have our own key as we visit South Wales quite a lot).

Through the gate, a low passage with walls of stacked deads leads to a small chamber (fill in log book). The ongoing passage reaches a second chamber with gour pools and straws. Dropping back down to the stream the passage is followed to the bottom of the First Boulder Choke where a drippy climb up an iron ladder and then scaffolding leads up into a large chamber above the choke.

Follow the most obvious taped path to reach a stream, and then the passage height decreases until a low gravel-floored hands and knees crawl in water - Gasoline Alley - is encountered. This section of passage can flood to the roof after prolonged heavy rain (but is fine in moderately damp conditions).

At the end of the wet crawl the passage enlarges and North West Inlet enters unappealingly on the left; this is a lengthy excursion in deep water for some time and is ignored here as it is a separate trip in its own right.

Beyond the North West Inlet junction the route ahead follows a low crawl uphill to reach the bottom of a pitch. An iron ladder takes you up the first 5m to a ledge where the final 5m free-climb can be made. A handline and steel plates bolted to the walls on this section assists the climb. Note that climbing down this is exposed and cowstails to clip into the in-situ ropes are recommended for less confident climbers.

A short distance ahead the passage appears to close down; but at the furthest point the way on is upward and into the Second Boulder Choke. This monster boulder choke is strenuous on the upward journey but rather fun and easy downward later (feet first on the way down, it is like a helter-skelter). The route up the choke takes a steeply ascending spiraling route with no possible wrong turns; follow the obvious worn route. Eventually this pops out into the top of a boulder slope in a chamber.

At the bottom of the chamber the way on is a low downwards crawl which leads to a taped crawl with a junction (ignore the route to the right). At this junction look behind you for where you have come from; on the return trip it is easy to miss the slope that you have come down only 3m back.

The ongoing passage has deep muddy section near its start. This passes some areas of magnificent straws, calcite pools and formations before a short ascent up boulders emerges in the top of Travertine Passage. The view along the passage from here is excellent; it is huge and vanishes off into the distance.

A short distance along Travertine Passage at a high point, a fixed rope comes down flowstone on the right wall. This leads up to a spectacular straw gallery. SRT kit required. Only very experienced and careful cavers must go up. There is little to be gained by crossing the chamber unless you are seeking to position a flash gun for photography, and anyone doing so must keep very low indeed, take immense care, and remove their wellies and oversuit. Please help preserve this chamber for future generations.

Ignoring this rope, the taped path on the left of Travertine Passage leads down a slope to reach a series of gour pools and the passage leads past yet more impressive formations including some very long straws. The passage size increases significantly on the approach to the Hall of the Mountain King, with its stunning overhead formations. Don’t forget to look behind you and up as you come around the chamber!

Keep to the taped path leading anticlockwise around the perimeter of the Hall of the Mountain King. This passes a passage on the right, which closes down after about 100 m (ignore). The taped path ends at a crawl into Hurricane Highway.

Hurricane Highway starts as a calcite floored flat out crawl which may be a little snug for some but should be manageable for most. Beyond here is a rise-up into a small chamber, and the way on is back down, keeping to the right, into an awkward crawl through a pool (or even more awkwardly to the left of the pool). Beyond here, the crawling gets easier, but continues for a fairly tedious 200m or so; approximately 15 minutes.

The crawl then relents and rapidly enlarges into the Severn Tunnel. This is a splendid, perfectly straight and beautifully formed passage with unusual undulating walls. Take a moment to admire it. This is followed for about 100m to reach a four ways junction. The passages ahead and to the left close down, while the main way is to follow the large passage to the right. A route here

The right passage enters a large section of passage with fine mud banks. The route is marked by tape. A passage off on the left leads to the Lower Series (ignore) whereas continuing ahead in the excellent large passage is the way on. The Third Choke is reached (which it little more than a pile of blocks requiring an easy ascent to roof level and then descent) and soon after this, the Fourth Boulder Choke is encountered.

The fourth choke presents itself as a huge area with a steeply ascending slope of blocks reaching all the way to the roof where all route choke. Keep to the right wall and only a short distance up the slope a well-worn route enters the choke. This goes up and down a few times before apparently ending, but the way on at the ‘end’ is upwards on the left into a large and complex boulder chamber. In this chamber, cross to the opposite wall, and the way on is a polished crawl at head height straight ahead along the left wall. The navigation through this choke is a little complex but be assured that the correct route is clearly well worn; any routes which appear to show loose or uncompacted mud or non-polished rock are not correct.

The choke opens up into a large chamber at the top of a boulder slope. The roof here commands some respect – This is not a good place to stop for your sandwiches! At the bottom of the boulders a large passage is followed, reaching after about 50-100m an obvious junction at one of the most impressive passages in the cave. Although the route to the Promised Land is on the left, it is worth also exploring right too; both are covered below.

RIGHT:
The taped route ascends and then descends boulders to reach a junction (also taped). Ahead, the passage continues for some distance in massive proportions to finally terminate at the fifth choke. At the junction, the right route leads up to some calcite formations and then into a winding passage (Helictite Rift). After 50m a sign is encountered advising extreme caution ahead and a maximum of two at a time (please respect this; it is sound advice). The passage beyond here narrows with a small stream and goes for about 40m, passing magnificent formations along the right wall. Extreme care is needed here; please crawl even though the passage height does not specifically demand it, and please avoid contact with the right wall. You will be dripping mud so keep away from the formations. The formations have survived mostly unharmed for 40 years of caver visiting but could be wiped out by just one careless move. The route ends where the rift narrows further and although more fine formations are seen ahead they are not passable without damage; turn around here!

LEFT:
The route immediately encounters a pitch. There are fixed ropes in place and confident climbers will have no trouble. Follow the rope on the right wall, but before the end, switch to a rope on the left dropping down a hole in the floor (an alternative abseil rope route is straight ahead). The hole in the floor can be easily descended thanks to a knotted rope and three metal bars that have been installed into the walls.

At the bottom the passage leads down to a large T-junction:

Left the taped route ends after 100m at a massive chamber and the unusual Pagoda formation (a 50cm high stalagmite of unusual shape). Right however is upstream and is the start of the Promised Land. This splendid passage runs for several hundred meters in mostly very impressive proportions. A trip to (nearly) the end is highly recommended.

Follow upstream (the stream is often lost under boulders). Many of the boulders are covered in mud bank deposits which is a characteristic of this passage; simply follow the taped route. Eventually, the route in the stream suddenly lowers and a duck is encountered, but just before this a shelf on the right leads into a dry oxbow bypass.

The Oxbow bypass involves about 10 minutes of slightly awkward caving in a narrow rift passage with obstructing blocks; at the time of writing a wire (used to detonate charges which ultimately connected this route back to the stream) demonstrates the route. There are no wrong turns, and the stream is eventually rejoined; take note of this point for the return journey as it is not obvious.

The stream passage is followed for a short distance before a slope up is reached and a fine calcite flow emerges from the right. Further along a 3m climb up leads to a section of passage that has calcite nodules on the lower section and gypsum crystals on the walls.

The passage gradually increases in size with a meandering stream trench (the tape eventually ends but please be observant and avoid trampling any undamaged mud banks) and continues for quite a long distance. The route is almost perfectly straight in several places; most peculiar.

Notable features along this passage include a white flowstone formation that cascades down the left wall and covers the boulders below, then two side passages 2m up on the left wall (which lead close to Daren Cilau but are dead ends) and finally a sharp right hand bend; the first such significant change in direction for ages!

Just around this bend a few calcite formations are passed and the passage narrows significantly; at the end an awkward scramble up blocks enters another large overhead chamber (10m diameter) with some polyprop rope handing from the roof. Beyond here, the route continues for another ~100m to the terminal aven, but beyond this chamber it is low, awkward and tight with little to inspire. The chamber provides the best turnaround for all but those hell-bent on getting to the very end.

Total trip time including ample stops for lunch, route-finding and photography: 8 hours underground (but could probably be done in 6-7 hours without cameras).




27th August 2018

Matt Ewles

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21 photos by Gary...

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Sunday July 8th

Sleets Gill

Matt E, John D, Gary, Ade, Toby, Couple of NPC members

Matt E wrote...

Sleets Gill has an ominous reputation. A high profile rescue raised caver awareness of how very flood prone this place is, often flooding completely days after heavy rain has long since passed over.

It nonetheless offers the rarity of a splendid and lengthy adventure in Yorkshire without a single item of tackle! For this reason it had been on my list for some time but the weather was never dry enough to satisfy my paranoia.

The summer of 2018 however provided several such dry opportunities, and only 6 days before Gary and I were due to be married, we thought we would have one final caving trip together as single men. Accompanied by other YCC folks and a few NPC members too we made our way down to Littondale where a small layby (large enough for 4-5 cars) allowed parking only 5 minutes walk from the cave entrance. It was a scorching day and clearly several other cavers had the same idea; Sleets Gill was the place to be today!

The entrance is certainly a sight to behold - a large ramp of limestone gravel and rocks vanishing downwards for some distance at quite an angle! At the bottom several crawling sections interspersed with chambers reached a junction where the Wharfedale sump is usually on the right; not today though as it was totally dry! We headed left into the main passage.

The main passage is splendid; like a railway tunnel winding its way for about 10 minutes in splendid proportions. Why had I not been here before?

About 20m before the big passage suddenly ends, the drop down on the left towards hydrophobia/hypothermia was easily found. We didn't know what to expect from this, but we were keen to get to the famous Ramp. We were not wetsuited so we hoped for low water. The route to Hypothermia goes straight ahead, but right is the way to Hydrophobia and The Ramp. This starts as a slightly awkward hands and knees crawl in a stream passing a few junctions (the Not for the Faint Hearted description is very clear) until a stream enters from a tiny shelf on the left - the start of Hydrophobia!

This tiny passage does not appear inviting. Even in the very dry conditions we had it was still lying on our bellies in the stream and the water was freezing. As we thrutched onwards the passage quickly got smaller, only 40-50cm high and 60-70cm wide on average and sharp and grabby. On several occasions on rounding a corner I looked ahead in despair, but with people rapidly snapping at my heels I pushed on.

The crawl lasted about 5-6 minutes, was painful, wet but not horrific... we've certainly done worse in our home patch of the North York Moors!

The crawl emerged at a wet junction. The navigation to the bottom of The Ramp is complex and in fact Not For the Faint Hearted is unusually vague here. However the problem is eliminated by there being a continuous wire all the way from the end of the crawl to The Ramp to follow.

At The Ramp, the things got much bigger. Ahead was a sump and two other cavers were already there ready to free-dive into it having come in via Hypothermia. We were particularly surprised to find that for one of them this was one of their first ever caving trips! We suddenly felt like our own achievements that day had been diminished.

The Ramp, on the right just before the sump is an unusual feature indeed - a very steeply ascending huge passage which seems to go up for ever. The upper parts are a little nervewracking as you become very conscious that a loss of footing is going to make for a very speedy descent. Digging thumbs into the mud for grip worked well. At the top is a splendid gallery of straws, easily justifying the efforts. A little further up through boulders was a final upper chamber with some more formations (quite vulnerable) and loose rocks.

Going down The Ramp was a delicate operation but a very enjoyable and unique experience.

We had an absolutely excellent day. A trip to The Ramp has it all; unusual cave passages, big stomping tunnels, formations, wet crawls, and is just good fun throughout. Definitely not a place I'd want to be in any wetter conditions though.

10th August 2018

Matt Ewles

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Sunday July 1st

Long Drop Cave

Aileen, Gary, John D, Matt E, Toby

12 photos by John D...

6 photos by Gary...

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Sunday June 24th

Owl Hole

Gary, Jerry, John D, Matt E, Tegs

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Saturday June 23rd

Waterways Swallet

Pants, Gary, Jerry, Matt E, Tegs

17 photos by Gary...

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Saturday May 5th

Otter Hole

Gary, Ian, Josh, Mark, Matt E, Peter N, Rachel, Toby, Will

7 photos by Gary...

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Saturday April 21st

Providence Pot - Dow Cave

Aileen, Gary, John D, Matt E, Raff, Pete, Toby, Some Irish folk :)

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Sunday April 1st

Alum Pot - Diccan Pot exchange with NPC members

Walmslers, Gary, Ian, John D, Matt E, Several NPC members

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Saturday March 31st

Short Drop Cave to the bottom of Gavel Pot

Walmslers, Ian, Matt E, Philip, Toby

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Friday March 30th

Lost Johns Pot

Gary, Ian, Jack, Matt E

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Sunday March 11th

Cupcake

Rachel, Pete, John D, Aileen

15 photos by John D...

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Saturday February 17th

County Pot - Lancaster Hole through trip

Aileen, Gary, Laura, Matt E, Rachel

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Saturday January 27th

Ogof Draenen to Big Country

Chuck, Ian, Matt E, Philip, Rachel, Toby, Will

Matt E wrote...

After a five hour trip from OFD1 to Top entrance the day before to ‘warm us up’, we were in the mood today for a proper adventure into the magnificent Ogof Draenen. I have previously done the round trip, been to the Dogleg Series, The Geryon, and War of the Worlds, but Big Country had not yet crossed my mind; until a few people recently recommended it. It certainly looks big on the survey, so we hoped we’d be in for a treat.

We did a little pre-trip research the week before, mostly thanks to Tarquin’s excellent online descriptions. This excellent resource has seen all our former trips into Draenen be successful, so we had high hopes. We were not disappointed; the route to Big Country was well described, including from the point where it departs the ‘main route’ to the Snowball near Big Beauty junction, all the way through the Three Amigos and onto Big Country itself (and beyond; but that will have to wait until next time).

With descriptions and copies of the survey we set off at 9:30am on Saturday morning from SWCC to Pwll Du, to meet an enthusiastic and enormous crowd of cavers embarking on conservation/taping work, videoing missions (including our very own Pete) and others on a trip to Yellow Van Passage too. We decided to allow half an hour for the procession to get through the entrance passages before heading down there to avoid too much congestion.

The entrance was its usual grotty self, but from experience I know all the tricks to avoid getting a waterfall down your neck; oversuit zipped up with neckstrap firmly done up; and suit over the top of the wellies. Maintaining dry feet in Draenen is one of life’s little pleasures. Down the wet slot in the stream, I was pleased to be still dry under my oversuit, and we made quick progress to Cairn Junction, without sight of the others ahead of us; they must move fast!

Through Beer Challenge (a low crawl which continues beyond the start of Wonderbra, which bypasses Tea Junction and a lot of boulder hopping) and up into Lamb and Fox chamber, we then made quick progress through Indiana Highway, Megadrive and into Nunnery Passage. Here, I found myself with the usual debate; is it the first or second right; after a quick consultation of the map we remembered that it is the second (the first is Going Square, the second is Perserverence II, the best way, the third, confusingly, is Perserverence I). Along the easy crawl of Perserverence II, and the first key junction was reached; straight on only 30m to the Arms Park pitch and the start of the round trip, but sharp right towards Rift Chambers and our way onwards.

A quick water top-up in Rift Chambers and we were on into Eliptic Passage. This was all easy navigation, as I had done this so many times before; it felt like second nature now. Eventually, Eliptic Passage degenerated at a cobble choke, and the crawls on the left too us through Lucky Thirteen, and then to the very obvious T-junction, Big Beauty, where we met Prof. Talling and his team.

Going left, about 50m down the passage we quickly found the alcove leading to Big Country. This started as an immediate steep slope up into a small chamber, with a small passage leading off, with ramps up and down for a short while. Tarquin’s description for the route to Big Country (via the Three Amigos) was absolutely excellent, a mixture of all sizes of passage and chambers, and very varied. No chance of getting bored on this route! Ian, being a relatively new caver, expressed his joy at being the first up into the passages after Big Beauty Junction, so I handed him the survey and description and retired lazily to the back of the group. He navigated faultlessly.

The final section before Big Country is a painful flat out crawl in a knobbly tube for about 60m, with a narrowing (The Canyon) half way along. This proved quite a struggle for Chuck, who despite being perfectly average middle-aged (sorry Chuck) male build, really did need all the available space to fit. The trick is to either stay high, or start low and then switch to high a metre in. The tight bit is no more than 3m long and returns to painful crawling, before popping spectacularly out into the enormity of Big Country. Wow!

Right, the Big Country stream was soon intercepted, and we followed this downstream in huge, impressive passage with ample blackness ahead, despite a number of rather high power lights in the team. The stream coming in from Blorenge entered on the left; we had a quick poke up there, and it continued in fine stream passage (for a long way according to the survey) but we didn’t have time. This was just to be a recce trip to see whether the Big Country was a worthwhile destination. Instead we continued downstream, and the stream narrowed into a channel in the mud, surrounded by tall and slippery mudbanks which had clearly been recently ‘reformatted’ by flooding; not a footprint anywhere but wet and slippery water carved mud. I’m not sure what conditions cause Big Country to flood to at least 2m deep but I don’t fancy being there when it happens!

Continuing downstream, the excellent passage continued, rising up above the stream before a ramp down blocks on the right dropped us back to the stream in a wide and impressively proportioned mud chamber. Downstream further, the passage narrowed more, became more mud choked, with the water having cut a deep and narrow channel, and then eventually a sump-like feature was reached. Time to go home! On return to the ramp, we noticed the possibility of not such good air here, as we were all notably out of breath, despite this being the easiest section of cave we had encountered yet.

Big Country did not disappoint; a dramatic passage easily comparable to War of the Worlds and MS&D; maybe not quite as large but still very enjoyable and a worthwhile destination.

The outward journey was extremely efficient. On return to Big Beauty junction we encountered another group of three, who had been to War of the Worlds. These characters were exiting from the unauthorised third entrance near to Eliptic Passage, and had possibly entered via the illegal new entrance Twll Du which was dug, without permission, illegally, on a scheduled ancient monument. The selfishness of some cavers never ceases to amaze me. I am proud to have used (and to have always used) the authorised entrance, and having enjoyed one of the key things Draenen offers; adventure, journey and remoteness. If people want to do short through-trips in multiple-entrance big systems then please go to Ease Gill or OFD and stop selfishly digging more and more entrances to a cave that many enjoy BECAUSE it has (had) only one entrance. Unfortunately, there seems to be many in South Wales who seem not to respect the democratic wishes of the caving community to support one entrance, in favour of their own selfish actions. A sad state of affairs; I love this sport, and the caving community, but unfortunately all communities have their bad eggs. I rest assured that these are in a minority and most cavers show greater respect to the efforts that have gone on over the last 20 years to conserve Draenen and mediate access in a democratic way.

On return to Cairn Junction we were caught by the Yellow Van team, who must have been extremely quick and efficient. Out by 9:30pm and back at SWCC by 10:45pm for a well-earned beer and some great company. Splendid trip in one of my favourite caves.

1st February 2018

Matt Ewles

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Saturday January 27th

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu Cwm Dwr round trip

Gary, Tash, Clive Westlake (NPC)

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Friday January 26th

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu OFD1 to Top Entrance

Rachel, Matt E, Ian, Gary, Chuck, Toby, Rob Watson (ULSA)

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Saturday January 20th

Boxhead Pot - It's a Cracker

Toby, Pete, Mark, Laura, Aileen, Clive Westlake (NPC)

Mark wrote...

On the drive over to the Dales I stated my prediction to Tash that there was no way the folks staying at the NPC would be ready to go when we arrived at 9:45 - she’d have loads of time for a cup of tea and breakfast. Sure enough when we arrived the packed tackle-sacks were piled up outside, teams for the exchange had been decided, call-outs were on the board, and everyone was stood around expectantly, most already wearing undersuits. Oh well. Tash had a hurried breakfast while the rest of us gossiped away.

I’d not really rigged anything since Pasture Gill a month or two previously, and I find it odd how rapidly I can slip out of my vertical-caving-comfort-zone. Every time I’ve had even a slight break from caving and SRT I notice feeling a little rusty on my return, but it’s reassuring how quickly comfort returns. I’d not done Boxhead for a few years, and I’d forgotton how enjoyable the route is down the Kendal Flyover. Once on the ledge we could hear Gary, and soon spotted his light emerging from the Lost Pot aven and he joined us on the ledge, also dropping a rope to the bottom. In no time at all the ledge was packed full of people from both routes, and we soon lost track of who was where. Aileen, Toby and I were keen for an explore, but the other members’ enthusiasm levels were somewhat lower, most seemingly suffering from the tail ends of colds or flu.

We’d pondered doing the Tate Galleries – Lyle Cavern – Lost Pot Inlet round trip, but none of us had ventured through the Tube before, and although water levels weren’t high, they weren’t especially low either. We followed Clive down to check that there was a rope in place above the Tube (there were two) before going to look at the Tube itself. The chamber and climb just upstream of the Tube didn’t bode well. I was immediately soaked through from the water and spray that was suddenly everywhere, and it didn’t look promising as I looked down the continuing passage. Aileen dropped down to join me and took a closer look, declaring that the significant quantity of water disappearing around the descending tight bend didn’t look greatly appealing. With little or no debate, we elected to go the other way around and see what the Tube looked like from the other side. Perhaps the proximity to our exit route would provide greater encouragement.

Back in the Cresta Run, it was enjoyable to be navigating with a survey I’d found rather than a description. Memories were rusty. We elected for the route via Handshake Crawl and Straw Chamber, the first of which provided me with some entertainment as I wedged myself in for a short while, unable to proceed, retreat, or remove my helmet. Some shuffling later rectified the situation, and we were duly rewarded with the straws the survey promised. We picked up some lost-looking items before the climb into Avens Passage (check the UKCaving lost and found forum if you’ve lost anything here!) and making our way to Lyle Cavern. Toby was in his usual dilemma that his delicate descender couldn’t deal with the fixed ropes, so a slight faff ensued on our descent, before we ventured into what was new territory for us all up Lost Pot Inlet.

We were pleasantly surprised by the caving, and pondered collecting a drag tray and haul line that appeared to have been washed down there, before remembering that we still had the Tube to negotiate and deciding that large pieces of digging paraphernalia probably wouldn’t enhance the experience too much. We quickly arrived at the Tube, which looked infinitely more inviting from below. Aileen shot straight in, and announced that water levels were in fact fine. I followed, and soon heard laughter behind. It’s fair to say that crawls half-filled with water don’t represent Toby’s favourite form of caving, but he’d found he could avoid the whole thing via the narrow slot over the top. I can’t remember the last time I saw him so pleased.

Now a little chilly we made our way out It’s a Cracker. More new passage for us all. I was pleasantly surprised at how different the character of the cave quickly became. I collected some rotting wood and an old drag-tray on my way up and, after briefly mistaking a fixed rope for our route out, elected to wait to make sure Aileen avoided my mistake. She waited at the rope to do the same for Toby as I went on up the next pitch, and after a few minutes waiting at the top I was puzzled to see Toby climbing the rope below me…”Have you and Aileen swapped?”, I shouted down. “No, she’s ahead of me”, came the reply. Oh dear. She certainly wasn’t. Although we didn’t realise at the time, it turned out that while Aileen was waiting to make sure Toby went the right way, he’d taken an alternative route following the water, bypassing her altogether before derigging the next pitch. After a bit of shouting and lowering the rope back down, we all headed out to a picturesque but extremely chilly Leck Fell. Brrrr.

An enjoyable day was topped off with a visit to Tim’s where we thawed (or slept in Toby’s case) in front of the fire, followed by a tasty dinner at the Marton Arms.

24th January 2018

Mark Sims

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YCC Trip History

Here you can see the list of pretty much all the trips YCC members have been on over the years. Members can also submit reports which will hopefully help others to avoid problems or just for some inspiration! Use the filters below to view by year or cave.

Trips by Year...

2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009

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