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Present: Chris R, Katrina, Cathryn, Adam, Phil, Ben, Al, Andrew, Peter

There seem to be no restrictions on party size for descending Ogof Draenen, but only 9 cells were charged, so we had to opt for two short trips. This is the account of how team 1 fared.

An interesting road from Gilwern, with a brief stop to admire the rusting cars, took us to the car park opposite the Lamb & Fox. Typically, it started snowing as we were getting changed. Down ‘The Tumble’ (living up to its name in Al’s case) we found the entrance gate (unlocked, so we didn’t need the key which had got to us just in time). The entrance is a low, wet crawl and then a climb down a scaffold supported shaft. At the ‘Bats’ sign, we turned left into a muddy, slippy rift – mostly easy going, with a handline on a traverse. This was Darling Rifts, and following the right hand wall took us to a short roped climb and then into a chamber and Big Bang Pitch.

Retracing our steps (incl. up the climb Adam may or may not have promised we wouldn’t have to do…) we found Pitch Bypass, which leads to Cairn Junction. Nine DUSA lights weren’t sufficient to illuminate this impressive chamber, so backup from Phil’s torch was needed. Climbing over boulders coated in a thin layer of mud was quite hard going, but worth it to reach Gilwern Passage. Taped off areas protect some fantastic formations – stals, straws, cracked mud flow, crystally things. However, our geologist (Al) didn’t have his glasses on, so we’re not sure what these crystals were. Pretty, though. Running out of time we slithered across a mud bank with a big hole at the bottom, and stormed along to a beautiful calcite-coated pool (with some interesting polystyrene formations to protect it…) We turned back there, and slip-slid our way back. Climbing up the 20ft-ish roped climb in Pitch Bypass (I think) proved easier than it had looked on the way down (you can see all the foot sized ledges on the way up). Further on, instead of going back thro’ Darling Rifts, we climbed up a cascade into Spare Rib which leads back to Bat Chamber (might have another name). The old door in the entrance crawl finally finished off my waterproof trousers. Al was last, and so we had to close the door on him – which he didn’t find amusing as his headset had become detached from his helmet. Four hours of lovely caving and we had barely entered Draenen (68k and counting) – a wonderful trip into an awesome cave! So then we let Al out and wearily climbed the Tumble and handed over to team 2 in the car park.

Katrina Heywood