ORGANISATIONS > Council of Higher Education Caving Clubs

CHECC 2020 My favourite cave entries

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So this one will be a showcase of your favourite cave, and why it should be everyone’s favourite. Photos encouraged, and a trip report would help describe them very well to others. The winning entry will be crowned cave of the year 2020, a meaningless title I just came up with, but it sounds cool!

The prize for this is a Petzl Strato helmet, and a Petzl Bindi head torch, donated by our good friend Tony at Starless river, a huge thanks to him!

An excellent choice for a competition – I hope that you publish some , at least, of the entries on here.

I love Draenen for its varied nature and impressive scale. But mostly for its entertaining names and memories made there.

Here is the trip report:

Present: Jack Sherlock, Nasir Bawa, Jonathan Lester, Kiran Crawford, Matt Jaworski, Ben Woodhead.

5 - 6th September 2020 | Time-in: 18:00, Time-out: 10:00 - 12:00

The lockdown had been lifted-ish, and DUSA gazed longingly across the Severn. All real huts were a no go. Fortunately, Nasir had infiltrated WSG earlier this year; not only acquiring the keys to the castle (Caerllwyn), but also the keys to the caves! The date was set, the hut booked and straws were drawn for the unlucky campers.

Over a slightly cremated BBQ, we began to mull over the Ogof Draenen circle route description. A few Caver Keith videos later we were none the wiser… so we gave up and drank more port. The following afternoon Ben studiously memorised Tarquin’s route description to the T.  Armed with two laminated surveys, 6 sausage rolls, and a Darren drum full of Heroes, we set a call out for the next morning and plodded down the valley to the entrance.

The entrance was relatively easy to locate, over a few fences along a well-trodden path. The tight entrance series involved a climb down a wet scaffold section. After watching Nasir fanny about on the rope climb, we reached Cairn Junction. We proudly inscribed our club name and 18:00 start time into the logbook. After a mere 30 minutes of clambering, we began to miss the easy-going trips we had become accustom to. We rapidly made progress through White Arch Passage to the Lamb and Fox Chamber, where the promise of “house-sized boulders” was met with the reality of bungalow-sized pebbles. Kiran posed for a few photos for his OnlyFans whilst we munched on our sausage rolls. Indiana Highway was next…

“Get me the bloody cowstails” shrieked Jono, as he looked over the rifts. I was first, carefully traversing along the rift, closely followed by Matt, taking every opportunity to try to capture the impressive passage on film. Wrestling with the tackle sack, Nasir clambered his way down the Highway and over The Last Crusade – an ominous 22m pit. After this, we entered a long chamber, where two exposed ledges either side of a canyon led on. The ledges became evermore slippery with each passing caver. Following this we entered Megadrive.

Megadrive is an impressively wide passage strewn with boulders. As we approached the nunnery we were greeted by Wuhan’s finest export: bats! The nunnery is a nicely decorated, dry passage that led down to Perseverance I. This long crawl popped us out at the top of the Balcony Pitch, which dropped us down into Arms Park via a lovely 8.5m ladder. Ben led the way on down St David’s Hall, promptly turning left into the infamous Squirrel Rifts.

Once we inevitably got lost, we noticed some small triangles scratched into the walls. These sent us in circles until we miraculously reached Woodenspoon (helpfully signposted). This led to a climb down and a tight sideways shimmy out into Haggis Basher. From here, we trundled down Far Agent Blorenge, happy to be in the soft, flat streamway.  Spirits were lifted when we exited the streamway to the right, traversing along the stream route until we couldn’t go further. Confused, since there was only one route, we retreated back and had a short rest as fatigue was really taking its toll. After much debate, we decided to muster enough energy to tackle the Chocolate Blorenge crawl and hoped we’d end up in the right area.

The long and arduous crawl dropped as back at the junction, much to our disappointment. Matt then forced his way through the constriction, unfortunately, I did not possess the speleo-dynamic physique required. After trying to eff and blind my way out, Matt, Jono and Nasir were able to pull me out. Whilst looking to the heavens, the caving god shone light through the eyehole. Turns out it was right above us. This dunked us into the sewer – a chest deep, ice cold stream.

Beyond this was arguably the most nerve-wracking part of the trip. “A leg here, a leg there” said the two lankiest people. There were no obvious footholds on this smooth vertical rift. Careful consideration and hokey pokey got some of us down whilst others made uncontrolled descents grasping a somewhat useless in-situ rope. Another, more trivial climbdown led to a small squeeze and the second Sewer.

From here, some easy-going cascades brought us to the confluence with the main streamway. At this point, we were all sleep-deprived and bitchy given the fact we’d been awake for over 24 hours. Tensions were high. We marched up the streamway aware that callout was looming. Therefore, the fellowship split – leaving Matt, Ben, and Nasir in our wake. We spurred on through the boulder chokes, making our way to Tea Junction.

Just like we were getting tired of the cave, we are getting tired of writing this trip report. Jono, Kiran, and I exited the cave, turning left at Cairn junction back up the entrance series. Getting caught at the Spare Rib and squeezing up through the scaffold we made our way out. Back up the valley and we were out! Happily greeted at the car by some walkers on their morning stroll, oblivious to our ordeal.

Still in the cave, the other three took their sweet old time getting out. Meanwhile, Jono and I enjoyed breakfast at Abergavenny’s McDonalds (We also got some McMuffins for the team!). Upon our return, Kiran had just spotted the others dragging their feet to cars. Although it was 12pm, the logbook time out had a few hours shaved off to save face.

Jack and Nasir, November 2020.

TL/DR: 10/10 would cave again. Start in the morning and bring more food and water.

Some more photos:

Defo one to go again!


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