Trips & Reports for Ogof Draenen

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Sunday April 21st

Ogof Draenen to War of the Worlds

Ali, Ian, Lee, Matt E, Toby, Will

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Friday April 19th

Ogof Draenen to Knees Up Mother Brown

Ali, Gary, Ian, Lee, Matt E, Toby

5 photos by Gary...

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Saturday January 27th 2018

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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Sunday May 28th 2017

Ogof Draenen to Dogleg Series

Aileen, Gary, Matt E

Matt E wrote...

After numerous trips to the far reaches of Ogof Draenen over the last few years (including one to Medusa's Children, one to the Geryon, and one to War of the Worlds and Sandero Luminosa at the opposite end of the cave), we were on the lookout for new places to visit in this excellent system. A tip off from a few club members recommended the Dogleg Complex, a different branch from the end of MS&D. After watching the excellent YouTube videos by The Freems (Youtube name 'Catchpool'), documenting a trip to here, it was clear that this part of Draenen is home to some of the finest formations.

A trip here was a must and so a bank holiday weekend at Whitewalls was promptly arranged.

A reasonably early start for a team of five enthusiasts suggested an efficient day ahead. Unfortunately on arriving at the Draenen car park opposite the Lamb and Fox, myself, Gary and Aileen waited patiently for Rachel and Toby to arrive in Rachel's car. After 30 minutes and no sign of them we were wondering what had happened. With no mobile signal, we gave them another 30 minutes before deciding that we might as well get started and hope they would catch us up (we knew they had recently been as far as MS&D so hopefully knew the way).

Aileen, Gary and I made quick progress through the entrance series, Beer Challenge, Indiana Highway, Megadrive etc etc, arriving at the Snowball in about two and a half hours - Not bad going! Into Last Sandwich Crawl, and the 30-40 minutes of long but not too hard crawling commenced. It was good to be back at MS&D after a year or so away. We stomped along to the junction where on all previous trips we have headed up towards The Geryon, but this time we headed down to 'Into the Black' down a steep slope of boulders (with a handline at the top). In the chamber at the bottom, a cavernous stream passage disappeared into the darkness (hence the name), but up on the left a steep rubble slope lead up into the Dogleg complex, and then the route was on the right at the top of the slope up yet more scree slopes. This did not look like a place many people had visited!

The Dogleg Complex is a very old, high level fossil complex of joint-driven cave development. It is a three dimensional labyrinth of junctions. Thankfully, Tarquins description which is freely available online (http://www.cavinguk.co.uk/draenen), is excellent. There are a few confusing moments where it is necessary to read ahead considerably to see what bits to ignore and what to follow, and some creative interpretation, but we encountered no major difficulties. Within 30 minutes of entering the Dogleg complex we arrived at our target; a stunning, absolutely magnificent, grotto at the end of an inconspicuous low passage, hidden beyond five minutes of arduous flat-out crawling.

Peering into this grotto from the approach, it is like a fairyland of columns, stalactites, straws and helictites. Stunning! They were in splendid condition, thanks to the difficulty in reaching this location and the fact that this is a dead end so it is not a thoroughfare. We admired this stunning chamber for several minutes and Gary took photos before we moved on.

Next stop was Circus Maximus, where it was nice to be back into more typical Draenen type caverns. There were some very nice stalagmites and straws here. However, the real treat was just beyond Circus Maximus, another dead end with a stunning gallery of flowstone and helictites. Absolutely pristine!

After more photography, we started on our outward journey, stopping only for a brief stomp down the first few hundred metres of the Into The Black Streamway, and exiting the cave at 9pm after about 10 hours underground.

What a superb trip - I thought I'd seen the finest Draenen had to offer before today - But the Dogleg pips the others to take first place.

Arriving out we found a note pinned to the entrance hatch. Rachel's car had a blown out tyre on route to the cave. Very bad luck indeed, but at least they'd got a top notch trip to the Courtisan in Aggie the day before to slightly compensate. It was nonetheless fun telling them how great The Dogleg was!

16th July 2017

Matt Ewles

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Saturday April 11th 2015

Ogof Draenen to The Geryon

David W, Gary, John D, Matt E

11 photos by Gary...

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Saturday September 6th 2014

Ogof Draenen to Snowball Passage

Matt E, John D, John C, Gary, David W, Mike Green (CSS member)

8 photos by Gary...

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Saturday June 7th 2014

Ogof Draenen to War of the Worlds

Matt E, Gary, David W, Philip Judson, Martin Egan

5 photos by Gary...

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Saturday June 8th 2013

Ogof Draenen (to Hearts of Olden Glory)

Gary, Philip Judson, Angus Sawyer

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Sunday February 5th 2012

Ogof Draenen to the Dollimore Series and Medusa's Children

Matt E, Mark, Gary

Gary wrote...

Everything was definitely against us for this trip. After Matt got some kind of flesh eating infection in his foot the night before and me being full of cold (not to mention knackered from doing Aggy for 7 hours), we'd all but written off our planned Draenen expedition. Things didn't get any better the next morning... it had snowed overnight and the road didn't look good!

Despite all this, and not leaving the hut until 11am, we managed to get to the Draenen car park and were swiftly underground!

After the usual fun dunk in the entrance waterfall we were making good time and were soon in Indiana Highway. At this point my cold caught up with me and I was on the verge of turning back, but I soldiered on thanks to the plethra of drugs Mark had with him!

Mostly easy going for a while with a quick stomp through Megadrive and on to Nunnery Passage. We had a bit of discussion about which passage off the Nunnery it was but we chose right. It was not long before the formations started with the very unusual gypsum crystals in Mid-winter Chambers, shortly followed by the Snowball which you can't help put sit and stare at for some time!

Then the crawling began...

There was a lot of groaning and grunting (mostly from Matt) through the Last Sandwich crawl which seems to go on forever ending in a few squeezes which turned out to be not that bad. The reward was worth it when we popped out all of a sudden in the HUGE passage called MS&D (more singing and dancing??). After (yet another) food stop we stomped off down the vast space to arrive at Luck of the Draw.

It was at this point that the description stopped stating distances in meters and moved onto kilometres! 'Follow the passage for 1.2km' it said! So off we went. After an easy rope climb up we entered some easy walking passage which mostly remained that size for it's length. Some time later we arrived at our goal for the day... Madusas Children.

I would agree with all descriptions I have read about this place... it is by far the most amazing formations I have ever seen and definitely the best in the UK as far as I know. For about 30m of passage the walls and ceiling are literally covered with the most bizarre bright white helectites, any one of which would be worth a long trip to see. The well taped path took us carefully through into another section of the same formations. Mark took some video while Matt and I headed on a bit.

By now we were all pretty knackered but pushed on to The Light Bulb formation then attempted to find the Geryon but failed after several crawls. Never mind - next time!

The return trip was arduous to say the least but we were out before midnight to a snowy Wales and thankfully didn't get stuck on the way back to the hut!

14th February 2012

Gary Douthwaite

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Friday January 14th 2011

Ogof Draenen to Sendero Luminosa

Max, Richard G, Nikki

Richard G wrote...

An amazing trip. Fired up with enthusiasm after hearing about Mark, Andy V and Jennie visiting some of the far reaches last March we decided to visit War of the Worlds. A long (5h40 in, 5h out) trip, but not too demanding - just lots and lots of cave. The formations in Sendero Luminosa off War of the Worlds North are incredible. WOTW passage is awe inspiring - second biggest after the Time Machine in Daren, but arguably more impressive as it is straighter and more consistently massive. Other great formations including the Snowball (Gypsum ball the size of a football) and the Washing Machine.

Since getting back and looking at the photos of Cantankerous Surveyors Passage, I itching to get back and go there.

Longer trip report to follow...

17th January 2011

Richard Gover

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Saturday July 3rd 2010

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

Matt E, Gary, Chuck

Matt E wrote...

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.

4th July 2010

Matt Ewles

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Gary wrote...

Not really feeling like *another* Draenen round trip we decided to investigate another area – Strawberry Passage… or so we thought!

With low water, the entrance was rather more pleasant than on previous trips with only a small amount of water going down the slot above the scaffolding. Still managed to get my pants wet though :)

Headed for Cairn Junction and signed in then up to Wonderbra and to Tea Junction with no problems. We sat at the slope just beyond Tea Junction for some time in awe of the vastness of the passage before heading into what we assumed (and the survey suggested) was Strawberry Passage. After a relatively easy start in the huge drive-a-bus-down-it sized passage, the going got a little tougher with constant up and down over slippery blocks for what seemed to go on for ages. We finally reached a Y junction with a climb up at the end. The right hand passage ended in a taped off area with some really nice formations and a strange flaked calcite floor. The left hand passage went up through boulders to a huge dry chamber which, after some exploring, we decided there was no way on.

By now we were all getting board at this rather un-interesting area of Draenen and headed back down the choke to the Y junction. Then we noticed a small, low crawl at the bottom of the slope and, despite being fairly sure that Matt had just peed there, I went off for an explore.

The obvious worn but small passage headed up through boulders to a squeeze with an enticing space beyond. I called Matt in case I needed pulling out then slithered through. The passage soon emerged in another large and very well decorated area with a stream flowing down it. This, we later discovered was the start of Hearts of the Glory Streamway. Following the taped area which kept us in the knee deep muddy stream passes some amazing 1m long straws before emerging a another stream way and Y junction. Following the stream left (down stream) got lower and we decided we didn’t want to get wet so opted for the right passage (upstream). A good distance of nice streamway followed before ending a boulder choke.

So what started as a rather mundane trip actually turned out to be really quite good. All the way out we still thought we’d been in Strawberry Passage but turned out we’d gone almost to the north most end of the cave.

I would defiantly recommend this area for a shorter, but interesting trip with some great formations. Judging by the amount of footprints, a seldom visited aera too. A return trip with a camera me-thinks.

7th July 2010

Gary Douthwaite

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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.

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