First trip of the year! At the hut, I dived into the kitchen and started cooking – you should try it ! No unloading, no silly caving games, no conversations to sustain with freshers I know nothing about… I’ll get to know them in the cave anyway.
So here is my Friday night top tip:
The pasta bake recipe (feeds 15)
Total estimated time: 25min-30mins
You will need:
- 1kg pasta (penne, tortellini, macaroni, not spaghetti!)
- 1kg spinach (frozen is much cheaper)
- 4 cans of chopped tomato
- 4 large onions
- 1 family pack brown chestnut mushrooms
- Olive oil
- 1kg cheddar cheese
- 2 Freshers
Cook the pasta and spinach while minion#1 cuts mushrooms, onions, garlic, and minion#2 opens chopped >tomatoes and puts in deep rimmed pan with olive oil under gentle heat.
Let tomatoes bubble and reduce slightly –(15mins)
Fry mushrooms and onions in separate pans. When onions golden add garlic to mixture and stir for >mins and reserve.
Drain pasta and spinach and layout in baking dish. Turn the oven on at max heat
Add tomato sauce and seasoning of choice (basil, provence herbs etc…)
Sprinkle onion-garlic mixture and mushrooms (make sure to drain mushrooms if still wet!)
Pave the dish with cheese slices and put in oven
Leave to bake for 10mins or until cheese bubbles and looks golden brown.
Flavour twist: you can mix cheddar and stilton or blue cheese for topping, or parmesan-oregano >depending on taste.
Serve while hot and enjoy.
After the dinner, small conversations in the hall died away like the embers of the fire as Freshers filtered upstairs to get some sleep.
In the morning, teams were assembled, and the minibus zoomed along the windy welsh roads to the parking site near OFD. Jack retrieved the key to top entrance while others changed in the car park. Team photographs, and on we go !
Kenneth, Johny, Noah, James and I entered the cave, spent a little time around the Big Chamber Near the Entrance and started route finding to the Chasm. Rather swiftly, we were at Gnome passage, and taking an obvious first left we passed the Corkscrew squeeze boulder field, and stayed high, until we reached the edge of the Chasm. Not particularly impressed, we turned around to take the Corkscrew squeeze. A Cambridge group was there already. I wasn’t particularly keen to start bumping into lots of other cavers, so we rejoined Gnome passage, took Edward’s shortcut and bumbled along to a sketchy traverse. Showing a bridging technique, we all crossed above the drop. Soon after, where the passage briefly enlarges, an inlet appeared to the left. We carried on along the main way till a drippy boulder field junction. Taking the first left, the ceiling dropped quickly, with a window to the right overlooking a 5 metre drop. To the left, a 10m drop. I realised we had followed the Frozen River, instead of the standard route. We stopped at a red flowstone, and turned around. Back at the junction, we traversed across the boulder field, overlooking the drop. Passage continued, but soon closed down. Another wrong way. We returned at the junction, where the Frozen River passage started. Immediately to the right, a squeeze led down the boulder slope, till a sharp left turn. On my left, I could see the window we had peered from earlier, on my right, and high above, the traverse over the boulders . Soon, a ladder climb and a nice crystal pool, a right turn and we were at the Shattered Pillar. Left turn led to Selennite Tunnel, straight on to Cross Rift. We decided to pause for more photos in the well decorated tunnel, and stopped for a snack. Stomachs filled, we came across the Maypole inlet streamway far below. Traversing high, we reached the cross Road, and taking a right, and left immediately after, we were at the top of the 35 foot climb, which had been rigged by Rhys a little earlier. We stormed down the streamway, down the ladder climb and into the main stream. Water levels were low, but the pools at the apices of the meanders still deep, providing good fun to the long legged, naturally hopping caver, and leading to contorsions from the typically cautious hydrophobic fresher. After a while, we met the cambridge group again, closely followed by Rhys’s posse. Both groups were heading out, and foreseeing a large traffic jam at the bottom of the climbs, I decided we should push further on to give both a headstart. We still caught them up at the bottom of the 35 foot climb, but they disappeared for a moment. Back at the cross roads, we followed the way to Salubrious passage, and from there for a small detour to Trident and the Judge. We met the cambridge group AGAIN ! We took photos, and gave them a headstart. Shortly after, we were at the bottom of the Corkscrew squeeze, and then at Gnome Passage. So close to the exit… We halted for a little though, to experience the complete darkness of the cave. And then, out via Top Entrance, in the fading sunshine !
The evening saw a collection of caving games, which resulted in this very true statement: Every caver is able to lick carboard off the floor with his feet as sole point of contact with the ground.
Having slightly recovered from the previous night’s antics, all were keen to cave again. More windy roads, a very steep slope leading to a weak bridge, and failing braking power… All kitted up, a team looking to top the grimness of the eve’s caving decided to visit Little Neath River Cave. With lower than usual water conditions, the wet entrance crawl never got particularly deep. A true baptism awaited us as we approached the duck. The passage belled out at two inconvenient heights: at the bottom, with 90% water requiring the helmet to be removed, and at the top, only accessed feet first by thin cavers. I took the dry option. There followed a streamway with the occasional boulder choke, waterfall climb and dry oxbow bypass before enterind the massive mud hall. Here, at the confluence of two streams: that of flood entrance and that from Sump 1 in Bridge Cave. The passage quicly assumed a more modest height (80cm) and a width of several metres. Ah ! The Canal was a rather long hands and knees waterlogged crawl until it opened up at a major Junction. Rhys’s memory of the survey led us left, away from the main chambers, into the loop, and towards the Canal By-Pass. Failing to find it after a little time, we turned back, I leading. I took a wrong turn towards what I assumed was the exit. It was not, as Rhys pointed towards a white paint marker at the junction. It was indeed the canal bypass… but we didn’t know it at the time, so we trudged along, and took the Canal again, marvelled at the formation of Mud Hall, and crawled out into daylight. A very well decorated cave, and certainly worth visiting in dry weather, for a longer than usual Sunday trip.
The rest you know, the hut was cleaned and we went back to London with the end of the Indian Summer at our backs. I certainly enjoyed this first trip of the year !