TRIP REPORTS - what have you been down to? > Sporting Trips in The UK
Photography in LNRC and then there there were three!
One of my early trips with Dudley Caving Club was to a terrific little cave in South Wales called Little Neath River Cave. It was a fantastic cave and very different to anything I had previously done with it's active stream way and sporting entrance series.
As with many of my early trips the furthest point in the cave would end looking at a sump. It may even have been the sumps in Neath that I proclaimed that you'd never catch me diving anything like that and that all cave divers were nuts. It was on one of these visits we found our way in to the 'Old World Series' and I was told of how the cave had first been discovered through Bridge Cave by divers and that there were several more sumps which had been passed and a good amount of cave beyond including a 'New World Series.'
Fast forward a couple of years and my mental state has deteriorated enough that the appeal of diving in the cold dark sump waters has become somewhat enticing to me.
I have spent the past couple of years trying to get to a stage where I was happy that I could get myself through the dives and now I find myself at a stage where I feel happy to combine this aspect of my caving hobby with my other....cave photography.....and so when I begun to plan my first photography project there was one place that I felt I just had to visit......Little Neath River Cave.
The first thing that would need to be done was to ensure that the lines in the sumps were in good condition and so a team was put together. I enlisted the help of a couple of other divers (George and Simon) for this as well as a couple of dry caving sherpa's from Dudley Caving Club. Between the five of us we hauled in around 40kg of diving kit through the awkward choke in to bridge for the three divers to pull through the first short sump and meet up with Mel and Loz, our dry caving support. Once through Simon ditched his kit and continued on as dry support carrying the cylinders and kit with us through to sump 2.
As George and I kitted up the others headed off to have a scout about and stay warm in the upper series of the cave. We arranged to meet back after a couple of hours.
As we had practiced in open water, George took the lead patching line breaks ahead of me, whilst I tided the belays and routed the line and we were soon through sumps 2,3 and 4.
After crawling out of sump the passage becomes a large walking size stream passage once again with a number of avens and phreatic passages before again reaching a sump. George and I had neglected to take a survey with us and without one were unable to find the way on and weren't even 100% sure we had found the 5th sump. With time running out we headed back to sump 2 dive base and begun to de-kit and pack up our gear. Simon had headed out as he had arranged his own (earlier) call out and so it was left to the four of us to drag out all the kit back out of the cave.
The second visit would be a solo dive by myself to find the way on after the fourth sump. May wife Jess helped my carry my 20kg of kit through bridge cave before heading back out. I had taken a third bottle which I left the other other side of the sump and continued on. My progress was surprisingly swift with all the kit and I was soon arriving at sump 2. For these dives I would breathe down only one of the cylinders and just test the other now and again with the intention of leaving the full cylinder at sump 2 on the way out. This time I had taken a survey in with me and quickly located sump 5 and dove through to scout the intended photo locations.
Upon exit I left my full cylinder, dive reel and fins at the sump 2 dive base and with the lightened load headed back out of the cave. As I exited the canal I was surprised to find George, who had been diving elsewhere had decided to come and see how I had gotten on and help move the kit with me through Bridge cave.
Last Saturday the big day had arrived and a team of six divers had been recruited to assist......unfortunately not all went to plan though!
Two of the divers never actually made it to the cave on the day and a third had kit failure at the first sump.
This just left myself, George Linnane and the machine that is Chris Jewel. Between us we had around 60kg of diving and camera kit. Although this was pretty manageable on the way in, the extra tank, reel and fins would really be felt on the way out and if weren't for the strength of my other two team mates I'd probably still be dragging my butt out of the cave now!
Below is the end result, my first photography beyond UK sumps.
Exit passage from sump 5
New World Passage
Thanks for posting the photos Mark.
They brought back some great memories of a photographic trip I had in there with Clive Westlake and Brian Hague back in the 80s.
It's nice to see the place in colour. Nearly all the trips I've had with Clive have been strictly Black & White.
Reminds me of a trip I did with Tony Boycott back in 1982. the sumps were very straightforward but the entire trip was pretty exhausting. Went as far as New World series.
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