Sunday, 29 January 2012

Ogof Gwynt yr Eira - again.....

Another trip to Ogof Gwynt yr Eira to carry dive stuff for Martin 'Lump' Groves as he continues his assault on the miserable sump at the bottom of the cave. No underground pictures of this trip - trying to cram the photo kit around a dive cylinder in the tackle bag is always awkward!

Given the weather of late this was the wrong day to be caving. As a I drove up the A470 ahead were the freshly snow crowned peaks of Pen y Fan and Corn Du under a clear and bright winters day. Such days should be hill-run days!

I was the first to arrive at the car parking spot for the cave. No snow but frozen ground so I took a quick jog up to the nearby Cairn - Carn Pen Rhiw-Ddu - to admire the view. It was one of those days where the urge was just to keep running! Alas a few pictures had to suffice before heading back to the car and start sorting kit.

Looking West to Carn Pen-y-clogau from Carn Pen Rhiw-ddu

Carn Pen Rhiw-ddu
Soon Martin and Krysia appeared, closely followed by another old stalwart of the 'Gwynt yr Eira's' diggers, Al Braybroke. Soon the four of are duly kitted up and making our steady ways through the various bits of engineering and old exploration paraphernalia, whilst trying to avoid loose rocks, before once again hitting the bottom of the cave.
Sorting kit

Martin got himself ready for diving, and as there was plenty of help today I headed up into the upper cave to have another mooch, and in particular have a look at a blind pot that has a link to an airbell just before the sump.

Even though I was last in this part of the cave just before Christmas it seemed more miserable than before. Getting up the pitch involves using a old piece of 9mm climbing rope left in place since around 1996, its then a short but awkward climb, followed by an awkward thrutch to get into an awkward passage liberally coated in sh!te (well mud)....

I forgot where the link to the pot went and for some reason considered it to be up a short climb. This I couldn't get up so built a pile of rocks to get purchase, removed lots of mud to locate some dubious holds and teetered up a couple of meters... only to find it blind and going nowhere... bugger. Reversal was also a bit of a pig but accomplished without mishap.

The actual route was down a muddy pot under a big rock. At the base of which a slimy body sized tube gains more slimy awkward* passage which drops into a short section of nice cave with a small streamway. Sadly this quickly ends at the 10m pot where I manage to have a chat with Martin whose in the airbell. Also no decent sized connect between the two points and also no obvious leads to push.

The chat with Martin reveals he is back to digging his way through the sump but had run out of bags to stash the dirt - time to head out. By the time I regain the others I am liberally coated in cack and felt I'd caved for miles not just a mere hundred odd meters!

Back on the surface its still daylight and still a nice day. A short trip today but still a good trip. No doubt be back again soon! I think it took almost as long to clean my kit today as we spent caving :-D

Yours truly in 'turd' camouflage....
*awkward - the overused word of this blog, but appropriate to the cave!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Dog Run.

looking towards Porthkerry as the sun returns
With some leave to use up, and with the need to get some longish offroad training runs in, I head off for a coastal run with the dog. We park up at Cold Knap in Barry - the plan is simply to head west for a while and then return!

The start is unpromising as I sit in the car waiting for the hail storm to pass. The dog is far keener to get out! So togged up we set off - there is a smattering of other cars parked up, all with occupants watching the world, but definitely not going to get out and experience it!

Soon though the storm passes........
Aberthaw nature reserve
The coast along this part of South Wales is a stark contrast of nature, industry, leisure and housing. Within a couple of km we're in the Porthkerry caravan park (I believe of Gavin and Stacy fame, and more recently of losing several meters of waterfront views down the cliff face!). Then through fields fringed with new 'luxury' housing that works so badly with the layered cliff landscape I wonder how the planning system works.

Past the most southernly point in Wales at Rhoose, which is the site of an old quarry being reclaimed by nature, landscaped and again fringed by new housing. Some cliff top running and its soon at the Fontygary caravan park, before steep steps down to a little nature trove of Aberthaw. This little nature reserve has many rarities and is characterized by its salt lagoons, pebble beach and bits of salt marsh, but dominated by the Aberthaw powerstation.

The dog enjoying some sun and sandy beach. Fontygary caravan park on the distant cliff top.

Aberthaw power station
When the tide is heading out the beach expanse here is huge and very impressive. We attempt to cross the rocky shore but the going is slippery and slow
Aberthaw sea front as the weather starts to turn.
We keep going as far as Summerhouse point, but the sky is looking grey and squalls can be seen out to sea. Time to head back. The weather soon turns to rain, and by the time we are back at the powerstation heavy hail hits us hard and the dog is not happy... I have to squat over her for a few minutes to shelter her from the worst of the hail - I'm getting soft in my old age!
The dog trying to shelter from the hail!

The 'smoky' shimmer is the hail.....

...with the power station looking even more grey in the squall.

Hail on the beach.

Sea front just east of Fontygary
After Fontygary the weather improves a bit and with the tide still heading out I opt to run on the rocky foreshore. The wave eroded limestone platforms form an  impressive seafront.

Sun blasting through cloud breaks back at Cold Knap
We arrive back at Cold Knap with more hail and rain threatening to blast us once again, but suddenly get treated to the sun breaking through some cloud gaps in the distance. Soon though the clouds close in, and with it more hail........ time for home and some hot tea.
Happy dog on the beach.
A good trip lasting about three hours but only around 15 miles - its always slower with the dog - she wants to do dog things!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Flatholm in the dark!

Sorting Kit at Sully
Taran had this stupid idea - lets paddle to Flatholm at night! Yeh why not came the reply from at least three of us. Thus a friday night in the carpark by the 'Captains Wife' pub at Sully sees four of us fettling kit and sorting seakayaks and bemusing the locals poping to the pub. Both Taran and Stuart have excellent writeups and better pictures on their blogs so I wont bore with more details !

Taran in his element!

Stuart enjoying the night
Moonrise on Flatholm
The moonlight was superb on the paddle back.
The paddle out was a bit lumpy in a few places which was very surreal in the dark as you didn't really know what was coming. However once past Sully Island things flatten out and we made good progress under a cold and clear night sky.

We briefly landed on flatholm to have a quick leg stretch. Here we were treated to a superb moonrise. However time was pressing and a tide turning so it was time to head back under a rising moon - very atmospheric.

All in all and excellent evenings adventure with great company. Definately to be repeated!

Our route - stolen from Stuarts blog!

Posted by Picasa

Monday, 9 January 2012

Back to 'Herberts'

Another dose of misery over the weekend with a return to the bottom of Ogof Gwynt yr Eira ('Herberts' is one of several names used for the site and relates to the nearby Herberts Quarries). Once again it was to carry a cyclinder for Martin Groves who has been making a determined effort to push the sump at the bottom of the cave. Martins wife, Krysia, once again joined in the fun and the three of us gradually descended to the bottom of the cave whilst desperately trying to avoid kicking rocks on top of each other (there is a lot of loose rock in this cave!). The fun factor was increased further by the addition of some large pieces of scrap metal in the form of old car brake discs - Martin had found a use for these as useful line belays in the silty floor of the flooded cave passage!
Martin emerging from the direction of the sump.....

.... with another bag of sand and mud!
Progress in this sump is slow. The body sized passage needs digging out which is done by Martin inserting himself feetfist and then getting into a postion to fill a sandbag, which is then dragged back out of the sump, through an airbell and back to base. The non divers then drag it bag and stash the dirt out of the way. Meanwhile all the diving is in zero visibilty - the helmet lights are completly useless underwater!

The hope has been the sump will soon surface, but alas its not looking promising. So far Martin has managed to push the sump for about 10-12m, but a return to air space is not looking too good at the moment.

So if a non-caver is reading this blog I guess the question is why???!!! The answer is in the desire to explore, to reach new cave. This site offers great potential, but its possition on a geological fault line is hindering that push into the fabled 'Llygad llwchwr' master cave. Llygad Llwchwr is the source of the Llwchwr river and is where the water in this cave goes. Between the two caves is five miles - potentially a massive undiscovered cave system!
At the top of pitch 2 of 'drop the Dead Donkey' piches.

Getting on and off this pitch involves trying not to dislodge too much loose rock.

Other cavers are looking to 'dig' at the bottom of the cave, but seem a bit adverse to SRT (single rope techniques) and have started putting in fixed ladders.

So at least one more dive in the sump remains, but if that doesn't go the question is where next? Anyway it was another great trip with good company - there is something about a good dose of misery!