OFD fixed aids updates

cap n chris

Well-known member
If people wish to engage in original "risky" caving they simply ignore the Safety Installations and free climb things like they did back in the day. Me, I'll use every/all SI going, as "I love caves but don't want to get injured or die in one". Ta. Much appreciate all the efforts people go to in order to make a life of caving that bit longer.
 

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
"Resin anchors, on the other hand, are far more plausible. I've not been to OFD3 (at least partly due to the lack of a sensibly safe approach and there still being plenty of other OFD to do) and I'd probably want to focus on safer routes for newer cavers first, but we might get there one day"

The Traverses are a safe approach for a reasonably competent caver. There is an alternative - abseil down then arrange a pull through at the OFDlll end. The walk along the bottom is easy and now the preferred rescue route. All you have to be worried about then is the Maypole Bridge balancing act.

"and I'd probably want to focus on safer routes for newer cavers first, but we might get there one day"

I find this quite chilling. Is this the club that pioneered the route to Smiths Armory by having to first dive Dip Sump? Most of the cave was discovered by divers before Cwm Dwr or Top Entrance existed. There are kilometers of passage which is safe for novices. I am a armchair caver now but would be sad to see OFD become a "beginners" cave

A article about accessing the high level passage above Low's passage can be seen in NL No.5 - available on the SWCC website.

Jopo
I'll continue with this here because it's OFD specific.

I'm not sure if you are trying to argue there _should_ be fixed aids on the route to OFD3 or there shouldn't?
Personally I think it's incredibly unlikely that long traverses will get a line of resin anchors along them; what's far more likely is, for example on the route to OFD3, the route abseiling down and then prusikking back up is far more likely to get anchored one day - I have heard the same suggestion from a number of other people.

Also if there are kilometres of passage which are safe for novices, then isn't quite a big of OFD already a 'beginners' cave? It's a fantastic cave system; it's my favourite cave; but it's not some kilometre-deep Alpine meanderfest and (as you point out) with three entrances there aren't any _really_ hard committing trips (at least not by foreign standards). In many cases, there are excellent safe routes for novices with just one or two sketchy obstacles e.g. the Maypole step (which you can currently belay across using natural threads) or (until recently) the Low's Chain climb which many cavers (particularly shorter ones where bridging is much more difficult) struggled with.

I also do think some cavers confuse 'willingness to take risks' with 'competence'; I certainly choose to climb well below my standard when not attached to anything over a large hole.
 

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
Our initial plans (now that Low's Chain is done) are (with one exception) to replace existing anchors.

There are 'official fixed aids' which are either rawlbolts or eyebolts, often singly, which are probably older than I am. Some might be old through-bolts or spits and hangers. These are:
- Crevasse bolts
- Fault Aven bolts
- The bolt holding the chain on the Letterbox (which is an odd one since it's only used to hold a chain).

There are over 'non-official' fixed aids which need work e.g.:
- the Skyhook which doesn't currently work very well as it dates to when it was primarily climbed with ladders. It doesn't get you to the top (so you have to a sketchy climb to the top) and is relying on a fixed SRT rope rather than the old pull-up system. The rope rubs slightly if not used with great care, so the rope (not supplied by SWCC) ends up getting cored.
- the pitch into the Chasm, which (I think) is a single crappy rusty ring hanger with a natural backup further back. Apparently people still use this regularly (I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole).
- the anchors for the Swamp Creek pitch. I haven't done this, but I'm told it's an excellent Yorkshire-type traverse and pitch into the main streamway. I also believe at least one of the spits pulled out last year.
- the abseil from the Bedding Chambers into Gnome Passage. Not a clean hang (at all), so currently only a pull-through but this does get used. Currently a natural backup leading to (I think) a pair of in-situ spits, hangers and maillons. It's a nice pitch though.
- the p8 and p20 pitches in the Great Oxbow series (accessible via the Skyhook). These provide a non-streamway way to Marble Showers without doing the Midnight Traverses. I've done the pitches but not the route from there to Marble Showers; we were instead doing the 7-pitch round trip via the Skyhook, those pitches, Mutiny Junction and Hayden's Dig.
 

Jopo

Active member
I'll continue with this here because it's OFD specific.

I'm not sure if you are trying to argue there _should_ be fixed aids on the route to OFD3 or there shouldn't?
Personally I think it's incredibly unlikely that long traverses will get a line of resin anchors along them; what's far more likely is, for example on the route to OFD3, the route abseiling down and then prusikking back up is far more likely to get anchored one day - I have heard the same suggestion from a number of other people.

Also if there are kilometres of passage which are safe for novices, then isn't quite a big of OFD already a 'beginners' cave? It's a fantastic cave system; it's my favourite cave; but it's not some kilometre-deep Alpine meanderfest and (as you point out) with three entrances there aren't any _really_ hard committing trips (at least not by foreign standards). In many cases, there are excellent safe routes for novices with just one or two sketchy obstacles e.g. the Maypole step (which you can currently belay across using natural threads) or (until recently) the Low's Chain climb which many cavers (particularly shorter ones where bridging is much more difficult) struggled with.

I also do think some cavers confuse 'willingness to take risks' with 'competence'; I certainly choose to climb well below my standard when not attached to anything over a large hole.
No I was not suggesting that the OFDlll traverse should have a line of resin anchors but a alternative of descending and prusikking. We did a rescue practice in this manner and it went very well. It was your statement
I'd probably want to focus on safer routes for newer cavers first, but we might get there one day"
that concerned me most because I have no idea what you were referring to.

Jopo
 

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
No I was not suggesting that the OFDlll traverse should have a line of resin anchors but a alternative of descending and prusikking. We did a rescue practice in this manner and it went very well. It was your statement
I'd probably want to focus on safer routes for newer cavers first, but we might get there one day"
that concerned me most because I have no idea what you were referring to.

Jopo
Ah OK; I definitely wasn't including the OFDIII traverses in either 'safer' or 'for newer cavers' although I realise the ambiguity! :)

To be absolutely clear, even though I keep getting requests to bolt the OFDIII traverses or the Midnight Passage traverses I have no plans to suggest that anything is done with these bits of the cave at the moment.

PS important to note that SWCC is not installing resin anchors; SWCC has recommended to Cambrian Caving Council a number of locations that would benefit from resin anchors. CCC are then doing any anchor installations under the BCA scheme via Cambrian trained installers.
 

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
Hi all,

New topo for Swamp Creek which has been resin anchored. *Currently* deviation cords are in-situ (cord only, no carabiners). Should be doable in some pretty wet weather (if not all weather) although obviously the streamway at the bottom is dangerous in wet conditions.

Note that I'm pretty sure it will be possible to do a direct hang (skipping the rebelay and subsequent deviations) from the top either as a tri-hang from the top, or using a Y-hang off the last traverse bolt and the Y-hang bolt on the far side (skipping the further bolt on the same side as all the other bolts, and I suspect a 50m is sufficient, but I haven't tried it so it's not on the topo (yet).

Further OFD topos (including a new rigging topo for the Maypole/Bold Step on naturals) here: https://swcc.org.uk/joomla-swcc/rigging-topos
 

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Babyhagrid

Well-known member
Hi all,

New topo for Swamp Creek which has been resin anchored. *Currently* deviation cords are in-situ (cord only, no carabiners). Should be doable in some pretty wet weather (if not all weather) although obviously the streamway at the bottom is dangerous in wet conditions.

Note that I'm pretty sure it will be possible to do a direct hang (skipping the rebelay and subsequent deviations) from the top either as a tri-hang from the top, or using a Y-hang off the last traverse bolt and the Y-hang bolt on the far side (skipping the further bolt on the same side as all the other bolts, and I suspect a 50m is sufficient, but I haven't tried it so it's not on the topo (yet).

Further OFD topos (including a new rigging topo for the Maypole/Bold Step on naturals) here: https://swcc.org.uk/joomla-swcc/rigging-topos
With a hard rigged traverse line, would it be possible to pull this pitch through using the top two bolts?
(In appropriate stream way conditions of course)
 

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
With a hard rigged traverse line, would it be possible to pull this pitch through using the top two bolts?
(In appropriate stream way conditions of course)
Many things are possible; not all will work well. The anchors are probably not ideally placed for a pull-through (making it hard work to pull the rope down). Using bolts on one side only might make it easier (but would probably rub). If you were going to leave the traverse line rigged (and collect it later), it might be easier to just rig a direct hang and pull the rope up from the top later?

I think a Swamp Creek-Nave exchange trip would be a very pleasant trip.

All my early trips to Swamp Creek were during the winter, including around a very wet New Year where the waterfall was large, the main streamway was full of spray and was a draughty and cold place (I also saw the water level rise maybe half a metre while on the ledge above the bottom waiting for other people to descend and then reascend), and you got a bit of spray at the bottom of the pitch even with the rebelay - hence moving the pitch even further from the waterfall (and subsequent necessary deviations). Doing a 'direct' hang would have been extremely foolish and would probably have dropped you into the waterfall itself.

Visiting again last week, in much drier conditions, it was very surprising how small the waterfall had become and suddenly a direct hang became a far more pleasant option (I didn't have time to actually fiddle with the rigging to check the hang was definitely clean though).

The route to the Swamp Creek pitch is simple: go to Trident and Judge, continue on, and when the Swamp Creek stream crosses the passage, climb down into the stream and follow it downstream. It is a tight winding stream meander for some time; when the stream turns left into a straight section (and become very slightly tighter) then you are nearly there. Keep your eyes out for the P-bolts above on the true right wall (which, unlike the previous eyebolt, are actually visible from the bottom!) above a well-polished easy rift climb of 2m or so.
 

Huge

Well-known member
With a hard rigged traverse line, would it be possible to pull this pitch through using the top two bolts?
(In appropriate stream way conditions of course)
Not sure if this would work in this instance as I've never been to the pitch but another option could be to rig the traverse line so it can be retrieved at the pitch head and used to pull the main abseil rope down the pitch.
 

Huge

Well-known member
Andrewmcleod, is any consideration being given to placing fixed aids on the Edward's Shortcut climb? This is the one place I hear mentioned again and again by pretty much every caver, when the topic of fixed aids in OFD is discussed or a trip goes or considers going that way. I know of two people who have suffered broken ribs on the climb. It's on a main route in the cave, not a pitch that is only done for the sake of doing the pitch and that leads to an area that can be reached more easily by another route, such as the Bedding Chambers - Gnome Passage and Swamp Creek pitches, which would be lower priority in my opinion.

The climb is not high but has always been tricky and has become much more difficult and dangerous over the years as the rock has been worn smooth by the passage of cavers. I think the creation of foot/handholds is what's needed here, either bolted on holds, such as the one in the stream way at the climb into Maypole or even formed directly into the rock, maybe. I don't think anchors for a lifeline/handline are really needed.

Surprisingly(?), I don't hear many people mention anything being placed to protect the wide traverse after the climb.
 

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
Andrewmcleod, is any consideration being given to placing fixed aids on the Edward's Shortcut climb? This is the one place I hear mentioned again and again by pretty much every caver, when the topic of fixed aids in OFD is discussed or a trip goes or considers going that way. I know of two people who have suffered broken ribs on the climb. It's on a main route in the cave, not a pitch that is only done for the sake of doing the pitch and that leads to an area that can be reached more easily by another route, such as the Bedding Chambers - Gnome Passage and Swamp Creek pitches, which would be lower priority in my opinion.

The climb is not high but has always been tricky and has become much more difficult and dangerous over the years as the rock has been worn smooth by the passage of cavers. I think the creation of foot/handholds is what's needed here, either bolted on holds, such as the one in the stream way at the climb into Maypole or even formed directly into the rock, maybe. I don't think anchors for a lifeline/handline are really needed.

Surprisingly(?), I don't hear many people mention anything being placed to protect the wide traverse after the climb.
Consideration is indeed being given to both climb and traverse.
 
The Edwards Short Cut traverse is not nice imo. Having seen it from below (Northern Canyon), it's a really big drop you really wouldn't want to fall down. I did once meet someone who'd survived the fall but was badly injured. It is, however, a short cut. There are other ways around it. There is a tradition of doing very exposed climbs and traverses in OFD 2. Bob Radcliffe and Paul Quill used to be able to complete a Top to Cwm Dwr trip in 45 minutes it was rumoured. Only way to do that is via Edwards Short Cut, Great Oxbow and Marble Showers traverses and some sketchy less travelled traverses and climbs in Cwm Dwr. Fair play to those that can do it but for me I wouldn't risk it as I was never that confident.
 
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Babyhagrid

Well-known member
The climb down would be much easier with a fixed aluminium ladder or some steps. But it also isn't that bad of a climb , if you traverse over the top and climb down where the passage is wider. Same for climbing back up.
It's already possible to rig a handline for people going down this climb using the pile of boulders about 5M back from the edge.
IMO a single bolt on the right wall above the drop would make it easier to rig a handline and be a fair balance with not cluttering the cave with anchors .
 

Huge

Well-known member
I have to disagree with parts of DTCM's and BH's posts.

I'm sure the passage got it's name, Edward's Shortcut, during the early explorations of OFD 2. Since then it's become a standard trade route through the cave. It certainly has been since I started caving, over 30 years ago. Pitch Bypass and Wonderbra Bypass in Draenen are the same in that they quickly became standard routes. So it's been a long time since it was really a shortcut, in the same way that those points in Draenen are no longer really bypasses.

The climb can be tackled in two ways. Either direct, which is more of a chimney climb or by a traverse- climb / climb-traverse, depending on which way you're going. The direct chimney has very little in the way of holds on it and has become very slippery due to the smoothing of the rock. At least in a fall, due to the confines of the passage, you're likely to stay upright and be able to slow yourself by pressing outwards.

The traverse-climb is another matter. There are some holds but they are sloping and have also become very slippery. You are exposed over a slightly greater height for longer and the consequences of a slip here, are likely to be more serious.

A landline is likely to make the direct climb down slightly easier but not help much climbing up, unless the person is strong enough to lift their weight with their arms while holding the rope as there's nowhere really to use your feet. A lifeline will at least make it safer. I don't think a lifeline or handline will be of much use on the traverse-climb.

As an example, I'll describe the last time I did the climb. We had a group with mixed climbing ability and confidence. We were tackling the climb from above and I rigged a rope from the boulders mentioned by Babyhagrid. These are a little way back from the climb and at floor level so not ideal. I gave each person the option of a handline or a lifeline. I suppose if I'd taken a longer rope, they could have had both! I would say most people still struggled on the climb. Probably the biggest help, was that the first person down, (experienced caver, opted for a lifeline but was still nervous on the climb) stayed at the bottom and let everyone else land on his shoulders and then lowered them by squatting. This did lead to some hilarity, with one of the ladies ending up sitting on his shoulders, with her legs wrapped round his head, while he was facing her!

All that, of course, was a faff and took a long time, at a place which I remember, in it's more grippy times, taking seconds to descend and a bit longer to thrutch up or carefully climb and traverse. I think a couple of well placed holds in the direct chimney would allow cavers to go back to the simple approach of just getting there and climbing the thing, rather than having to carry, rig, use and derig tackle, for a 3-4m climb. There probably wouldn't be any need for a hand or lifeline here as falling would then be very unlikely and the consequences if someone did, wouldn't be very serious. I'd have thought that most trips to this area of the cave, probably most trips into OFD, will be done without carrying any gear, although in some circumstances I will, depending on the route/group.
 

Babyhagrid

Well-known member
It's worth saying that you can avoid the climb on Edwards shortcut by taking a crawl around it. Just keep going down gnome passage and take a left . Doesn't avoid the traverse though
 

mudman

Member
As one of the two members of the ESBRC, I agree with what Huge has said. I remember it in more grippy times and it was always an easy climb up, whereas nowadays it is very difficult.
Another option put forward by one of our club members is to restore the grip with a suitable power tool.
 
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