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Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 2 (top) - 17 Mar 2007

Saturday March 17th 2007

Members present: Andrew Vick,  Charlie Dixon,  Chuck Holder,  Dominic Galliano,  Gary Douthwaite,  Matt Ewles

Report by Matt Ewles

A very long day caving!

I was really excited about the trip, as this was my third year at Wales and I had never done the OFD system. After a quick change we went down to Cwm-Dwr entrance and made our way inside. Navigation was fine, and we made it through the crawl and to the boulder choke quickly.

We then spent the best part of an hour at the boulder choke, attempting to find a way through, and the first four attempts brought us back at the entrance to it! Eventually, after passing under the two scaffold bars, up, and to the right, we made it through. Navigation to the Smithy was fine, and we made it down to the streamway where we encountered the other team.

We had a few navigational issues with the streamway but made good progress to the ladder, and into the streamway, however this is where it all went badly wrong. The climb up from the streamway could not be found. Eventually we did climb up, a VERY scary and difficult climb using a chimney-like technique, about 10 m into a high passage leading off into a crawl along a sandy passage. A route off to the right was passed, however, an obvious large rock had been placed to suggest that this was not the way on.

The passage ahead lead into a series of dry stomping passages with sandy floors. These were very confusing, and frequently lead back on themselves. There were several passages with orange tape, however, at this point we were uncertain whether we were on the right route. Dom did not recognise any of the route at this point. After much stomping around getting lost, we found ourselves in a large boulder chamber, with a steep boulder slope leading upwards. At the bottom, a crawl lead onwards, which Dom went along while Chuck and I waited. About 30 seconds later there was a rumble, and the VERY loud sound of several large boulders crashing down from within the crawl. I screamed to Dom and five VERY unpleasant seconds passed before he replied. Some boulders had collapsed beside him, and he had to throw some of them downwards to stabilise the passage for his return. We were rather shaken by this!

It was around 6:00pm by now, and our call-out was midnight. We came to the conclusion that we had climbed out of the streamway at the wrong place, and were in completely the wrong section of the cave. We decided that we should return to the streamway rather than risk getting lost in a backtrack part of the cave where rescue would take many hours or days to find us. Once back at the streamway we decided the best course of action was to return to Cwm-Dwr rather than continuing to persue the route out through Top Entrance. We expected it to take about 2-3 hours, so call-out could be avoided if we set off immediately.

We quenched our thirst in the streamway (gritty!) and made quick progress back to the smithy (approx one hour later). Navigation was difficult back to the boulder choke however, as our survey had torn across that point, and all the passages are rather samey around here. We were starting to give up hope of finding the rather small discrete entrance to the boulder choke, and considering bedding down and waiting for rescue, when we stumbled upon a familiar crawl. A small passage along a short crawl lead into a long tall chamber, with two enormous sloping rocks across one end. I recognised this from earlier, as we wrongly went this way on the way in. I knew that the entrance to the boulder slope was only just a little bit back and on the right, and we quickly found it. Dom screamed back with relief " I've found the scaffold bar" thank goodness!

About an hour later we emerged from Cwm-Dwr about 10pm to be greeted by an SWCC member, the first of a preliminary rescue party that had started to form. They were actually more worried we had come out of Top Entrance and got lost in the fog, as it was very thick and misty. A few people were in caving gear ready to go and find us, and the 'rescue' lasted 17 minutes.

It was the correct decision to backtrack and come out of Cwm-Dwr, as this avoided a rescue. It was a very long (10 hr) days caving, and I ached for days afterways due to bruised from falling over several times in our attempt to get back to Cwm-Dwr quickly. We believe the passages we ended up in after climbing from the streamway may have been the Labyrinth area, completely out the way from where we should have been. Waiting for rescue there would have involved a very long wait!