Report by Jase Rider
Cavers: Jase Rider (EPC), Bob Toogood (EPC), Dunka (EPC), Dave Gledhill, Bernie Maddison, Jon Jones (DyO leader), Mike McCombe (DyO leader)
Dunka and myself set off for a wet and windy South Wales on Friday evening and arrived in the remote village of Ystradfellte sometime after 10pm. We were soon joined in the New Inn by Bob, Dave and Bernie who had been caving in Daren Cilau during the afternoon. As Dunka pointed out, this pub won't win “pub of the year”, although it did sell beer so it can't be that bad!
Saturday morning, Dan Yr Ogof show cave. We were greeted by Jon and Mike who are leaders for the system. Whether we would be able to do the trip or not hung in the balance due to the unsettled weather. At the end of the show cave (Bridge Chamber) Jon checked the water levels - they were high - but it was deemed just about okay to do the trip (although the decision was made to do a round trip rather than attempt to get to the far end of the cave which was our original intent).
Water levels were up and the first few lakes were deep much to Dunka’s displeasure (he was carrying a heavy chain we'd been asked to carry to the further reaches of the cave which will be used to construct a new ladder).At Lake 4 we turned off right away from the river. Larger passageway gradually gave way to hands and knees and so on to the beginning of Long Crawl. This is a mixture of hands and knees and flat out crawling in a small round phreatic tube which leads to the head of a pitch with a fixed ladder down in to Gerrard Platten Hall. Beyond Gerrard Platten Hall the cave really starts to get exciting with large phreatic passageway - much of it very well decorated. We soon came to Crystal Pool which we traversed on a fixed line to take a detour up Flabbergasm Oxbow - excellent formations including straw columns.
Retracing our steps back to Crystal Pool we carried on up Grand Canyon and passed the interesting Candle Wax formations (see photo below). After a short bit of easy caving we reached Cloud Chamber (huge collections of long straw stal appear like clouds in the roof of the cavern). A slightly tricky climb then leads to the Green Canal which is long and deep (and cold!). By now I was carrying the chain. I stuck a couple of empty plastic bottles in the tackle bag and tied the whole lot to a conveniently left rubber inner tube to float it through the canal. After the canal we followed Go Slower Passage eventually leading to Bat Chamber which is where we left the ladder chain. From here we retraced our steps, but not quite as far as the Green Canal. From here we turned right and soon the passage fell away into the depths of a large chamber - "The Abyss". The climb down into the chasm is part handline, part ladder (recently installed by Jon and Mike – very nice job). We were now in the lower series of the system and the awkward 'Camels Back' was followed by some fine phreatic tubes, large and clean washed, some with more recent vadosing in the floor. Parts of this section can flood to the roof as fresh foam on the roof testified. After a nice bit of caving we were back at Gerrard Platten Hall, and we carried on out the way we had come in, via Long Crawl and eventually out through the lakes (fortunately they hadn’t got any deeper while we had been in the cave). This had been an excellent trip in an outstanding cave – I would highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t done this trip yet.
After a pint and a chat with Mike and Jon, we went back to Ystradfellte and walked down river to have a look at the impressive entrance to Porth Yr Ogof (see photographs below). We finished the evening by having a few pints in the New Inn (which luckily was a bit more 'happening' than the night before!).