OFD I, Two Times

Saturday: Rosanna, Jed, Jake, Will, Yun

Sunday: Rosanna, Jacob, Natalie, Louise

The first weekend trip of the year was to South Wales and it was a fantastic trip to start on, with a mixture of established members, those who had come on the Peak Cavern freshers’ trip and first time cavers. Ogof Ffynon Ddu (OFD) is an enormous cave system with several entrances within walking distance of the South Wales Caving Club (SWCC) hut where we were staying for the weekend. There are a number of great beginner trips in here which you can make essentially as short, long, easy or difficult as you like so the plan was to run trips from two of these entrances, OFD I and OFD II over the weekend. I would lead OFD I both days as it’s better whilst others, including some very generous help from Brian, a SWCC member, would lead OFD II trips.

Saturday we ran the classic OFD I round trip, which is one of my favourite caving trips. Once kitted up, I gained my team: Jed and Jake, veterans of a couple of caving trips each, Will who had been on the Peak Cavern trip and Yun who had never been caving before. It was a great team and everyone caved very competently throughout the trip. The trip starts with a walk down the hill from the hut and an entrance which leads you into nice, easy passage which has concreted paths in sections where attempts had been made to turn it into a show cave. After a pleasant walk with some cool formations including the Toast Rack which is a section of passage with awesome gour pool floor we turn off for some good ol’ crawling, with only a minor detour over being unsure on where we were, before reaching the Dugout, a hole in the floor you drop yourself through with a bit of a squeeze at the bottom. Then following the passage round lead us to Bolt Traverse, a fixed cable you clip into to keep you safe on a ledge high over the streamway. Then onto Helter Skelter, possibly the most challenging part of the trip which involves an awkward climb up in a fairly tight tube. Fortunately no-one had any difficulties and we proceeded up into Pi Chamber, which is vast. Proceeding onwards, we passed Jacob’s group who were doing the same route in the opposite direction and just about managed to avoid the massive holes in the floor in this section.

Some walking and a detour to some pretties lead us into Roly Poly Passage, a bedding plane crawl that is made considerably easier by rolling down it. Boulders, boulders and more boulders down to Low’s Passage and on to Low’s Chain, a drop into the streamway down a handline. The freshers and Jed managed this no problem whilst Jake and I wimped out and descended down an in situ rope. Then we headed along the streamway back towards the entrance – my favourite part of the trip as the walls are an awesome pitch black with a streak of perfect white calcite running through it.

Before we headed out the entrance we took the wet way out the streamway through Pluto’s Bath before taking a detour back up the Toast Rack and found an excellent challenge passage. Soon after the Toast Rack there is a hole in the wall just large enough to fit a person in sideways which continues slightly downhill for some distance before turning back into the passage. A highly recommended diversion.


Picture: The challenge passage.

On Sunday, Jacob and I set off with Natalie and Louise, freshers who had both come on the Peak Cavern trip and done OFD II the previous day, with the intention of doing the same round trip as I had lead on the Saturday. However, being very keen freshers we decided to take a detour along Airy Fairy Traverse, a similar traverse over the streamway to Bolt Traverse, only considerably more difficult. The freshers aced this but there was no easy connection back to our route so we continued along this harder route further back towards the entrance. This involved a hairy leap-of-faith step over a drop above the streamway which was nerve-wracking but we all made it over, I think with a fair sense of achievement afterwards. Eventually we dropped back into the streamway and headed upstream towards Low’s Chain. We worked out heading up Maypole Chain would lead us back into the round trip in our originally intended direction so we did that, coming across Maypole Wire on the way which is another cable traverse above the streamway which caused a bit of difficulty in getting across, but again we managed it. This put us back at the start of Bolt Traverse having made an awesome diversion hardly cutting out any of the standard round trip. We finished the round trip as before, checking out the challenge passage on the way out, which everyone, of course, aced.

Overall I had a fantastic weekend caving, and had two great groups who were super keen and competent and I got to try some great bits of the cave I’d not seen before on the Sunday trip which was a massive bonus. There was also some heavy socialising with Kent University’s Caving Club in the evenings so a great weekend all round.

By Rosanna Nichols, 23/10/16