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Ogof Draenen - with 20 minutes to spare

By Mr. President, 16 May 2002

A first time trip down ogof draenen (for all concerned).Fred, Robin and me (Dave)

An ethical unethical caving trip, my bad luck on welsh tripspersists we made it back to the pub for around 10 minutes to 11(it was only a 10 yards from where we parked our car) to be told the pub wasshut, followed by the lights out. We returned to start the carfor 10:57 very much dispirited, after spending 5 minutes admiring themilky way while Fred ... Luckily we took returned to R&R's house forrefreshments and kept our unfortunate host upto 1:30! Oops.

Really good fun, my preparation left a little to be desired. One lightfailure and the fairy light backup failing to start. Luckilly I had anotherFX2! My lighting systems contiueing to fulfill everyone expectations but myown. Fred was using the one from Natalie.

I was unable to obtain the survey until the morning after the trip.So Robin and Fred it is possible to get a really clear view of whereeverything is and where we went. However working from the caves of southwales description just made the trip more enjoyable. Take a look!We spent time guessing whether we had just gone down an inlet or cascae orwhether the scaffolding was the 8 metre one in the book. They did lookrather short, but you know what vivid imaginations it is possible to havewhen you are having fun.

I also failed to emboss the description in plastic, and so my descriptionwas muddy and soggy within yards of the entrance.Luckily Robin and Fred were more careful with their copies.

The view as we went in was superb, the spacious tree filled viewfrom the cave entrance contrast wonderfully muddy tight crawl we wereimediately confronted. As we spiralled and twisted our way down through theentrance series never really certain where we were meant to be and wonderingif we would remember the way out. One cascade led to another and eventuallythrough a number of slots we came to the top ofa pitch.

My bravery exceeding my normal caution, I climbed down unprotected thinkingthe book would have mentioned the need for a lifeline.Halfway down the 6 metre pitch following the handline down, wondering why itwas there! Hmm I began to see why it was there, the bottom halfwas obscured by an overhang. It was needed but which way should I go.Must be easy, but how to get a better look! Noticeing the far wall was nearI took the bold step and bridged to take a better look. Now I was ratherprecarious and so I thought it must be better to go down thanback and the dodgy looking handline looked very useful. I was down prettyeasily and looked up. The overhang looked interesting.

Taking a deep breath, I swore about not bringing a ladder and decidedeveryone else ought to come down too. But they would at least have thelifeline I wished I had had. Climbing in a cave is to be avoided ifpossible, particularly with my skill levels. Unless Royston is there topush, stand one, cajole or coach me up. Where were you Royston when I neededyou. I guess it does me good not to have you around.Meanwhile Fred was getting quite excited about the prospect of combiningcaving and climbing. An attitude problem. Soon we were downbut getting back up would be interesting.

Robin led the way on to find cairn chamber, and we were off heading for teajunction (it seemed a good idea at the time but although it is now clear wewent there we were never sure we got there!) The guide gave us a choice ofroutes to tea junction, but my vote for following the main passage wasoveruled by Fred's ethusiasm for "wonderbra bypass", does its name make youwant to find out what its like. How can you argue with that? Actually thischoice proved inspired as it is by far the easiest route misisng out severalclimbs not mentioned in the guide and shown on my survey. Someone has luckon their side.

We joined the stream passage still none the wiser for why the passage hadgot its name. Unlike cairn junction which has yes you've guessed it!We had one of those discussions about which way it was to tea junction,underneath a precarious boulder, discussing the direction of the stream andwondering whether the description of going downstream was correct.All agreeing that if the passage was to meet the other route at tea junction(it does not hence the description was correct) then it should be to theright rather than the left which was the down stream direction. My theoriesof local minima proved wrong we reached tea junction expecting to meet theother route. But just finding a rescue dump.

We continued downstream for a moment longer, going down white arch passagebut mising the arch and not reaching the obvious target of lamb and foxchamber, which we did not know existed at the time.Realising that we should turn back if we were to make the pub, we turnedtail to make speed out of the cave. Only to be slowed down by me wonderingwhy my light was so bad, before recognising it had run out of charge andthat I should change it. Several light s later and we were off.

Before we knew it we were back at the pitch. Robin brute forced it up thedodgy handline lifelined by your truely. Before he went up I gave him amartin-esque tutorial in 'italian hitches' hoping Robin would be able tolifeline me from above. Robin was up and now it was Fred'sturn. Longer legs are really useful sometimes and this was one of them.Fred superior climbing skills were put to the test on wet slippery muddyrock (the sort climbers love to avoid). After a few attempts the smell ofbeer made me impatient and despite Freds protests and obviouslack of need. She was pulled up the pitch by my immense bulk as a counterweight. Now it was my turn, my fears were being realised whenit came to Robin tying an italian hitch, hmm climbing without a lifelineseemed a propect but Fred came to the rescue. Does Red bull effect yourability to learn or was the damage done the previous night? Fred tied theItalian hitch but soon we need Robin on duty as it failed to run through thesmallisg carabiner that was used. My large carabiner failed to open. Hmm..Lifeline ready, and it was easy not trusting my strengthI managed the stretch for the bridge after a few grunts and heart searchingmoments.

The way on back came back from memory at just the right moments, and I slidpast Robin on the now memorable slot squeeze only to becomefirmly stuck needing three attempts before I realised the rock would notgive and that there must be an easier way. This found I was feelingrather pleased with myself and proceeded to tell Fred how to do the squeezeand she just walked through wondering what the fuss was about.This was bad enough but Robin did something similar. Hmm my night but a beerwas on. Onward and upward spiralling and crawling we were out.

Fred led the sprint back up the hillside, leaving me and Robin gasping forbreath. Not 10:40 plenty of time when you are next to the pub.Well as you know not always...

Now I have the survey this is an enormous cave and it isdefinitely calling us back pretty soon

Dave the cave

Thanks Fred and Robin for making it possible and being excellent companionsfloundering in the dark amongst slots, casscades and scaffolding..

PS thanks for the beer, and Rachel sorry for staying so long.

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