Clive Westlake, Fiona Hartley, James Perry, James Wilson, Rebecca Diss, Ana Teck
Betrayed by the day's miserable weather but motivated to take my new car on a long drive, I collected Diss from Leicester on my way to the SWCC. It was much further to Wales than I thought from there, made worse by random unmapped mini roundabouts and cone confusion on the Heads of the Valleys Road. Initially dejected to arrive at 12:45am, we became thrilled that we'd somehow beaten the others to the hut. They rolled in shortly afterwards and after hellos we all rolled into our beds.
OFD2 Top Waterfall: Clive Westlake, Fiona Hartley, James Perry, James Wilson, Rebecca Diss, Ana Teck
Considering my original Dan yr Ogof plan had been rained off by Friday's downpour, it was unfairly dry on Saturday morning.
Diss and I tried to make tea and failed to find any of the required ingredients. Surely the others couldn't have forgotten tea and milk? It's an essential! Ana showed up.
"You did buy milk, right?"
Ana, face freezing as realisation dawns: "We did not buy milk."
Horror. We went to the Spar (no longer a Spar), of course missing the turning several times. First breakfast was crunchy nut cornflakes, followed by the classic fry up and about six hashbrowns each. Perry made his own version of egg mcmuffins.
Some diversionary plotting occurred, featuring phrases like pom pom and birth canal and lack of planning, before we settled on Clive's idea to all go to Top Waterfall. This did ensure we didn't enter the cave before midday on Saturday.
We cruised down to the main streamway under James's superb navigation. "It's only been 46 minutes since we left the hut!" Diss declared somewhere beyond Salubrious.
Clive rigged up a lovely double rope handline for the drop from Maypole Inlet into the main streamway, which made the climb very easy. He then turned to me and said:
"The next 300m of streamway…"
"Are very fine indeed?" I interrupted, because that is the sort of thing Clive says.
"No, I was going to say the next 300m of streamway is most boring and tedious! It gets better after second oxbow."
Suitably warned, off we went. Splish splash, meander meander, step from one side to the other. Hopefully not losing your feet down any of the fault holes in the floor. I enjoyed it a lot even though the foot-trapping tendency is a pain in the a(nkle). Love a streamway.
To leave the second oxbow, we had to climb down into what looked like a pool of Guinness. More uphill streamway followed, with many more small waterfall climbs. James leapt dynamically over one pot while Perry stepped statically over it. The rest of us slid around the edge on a ledge, getting our legs wet again.
The whole streamway is loud, especially Top Waterfall. We took a quick snack break a few metres back, where it was quieter, and then scooched back downstream to the Guinness. James alone chose to swim through the pint and thus avoid the climb back up into the second oxbow. Full of confidence, to get out of the Maypole Inlet rift near the Crossroads I followed Clive up his preferred climbing route and immediately stranded myself on a boulder halfway up, needing a handhold. Soon Perry's shoulder came to my rescue.
From Salubrious, James took me on a requested excursion to find the bottom gate to the Columns, because I didn’t manage to find it on Wales II last year. I've never seen Cairn Chamber before or most of the Labyrinth. All went smoothly; lo and behold, it was a gate. Thanks to James, I technically should now find my way to the gate on a Columns open day. Technically. Should. It added about forty minutes to the trip.
I consumed lots of cheesy pasta and even more alcohol than that in the evening. Good socialisation. Perry revealed that his birthday was on Sunday! Communal ranting and hugs were followed by bed.
Top to Bottom (OFD2 to OFD1): James Wilson, Rebecca Diss, Ana Teck
Only James's enthusiasm enabled caving today. I experienced the revival of Perry's magical mystery tour, last run in 2019. We went to the pub zoo at the bottom of the hill, and the animals were all much less damp. More birbs, fewer monkeys. After finally finding a pub that wasn’t rammed and reassuring the landlord that we wouldn't steal his expensive plastic pint glasses, we had delicious warming stew for lunch. I think Perry’s enjoyment of his birthday pub lunch was enhanced all the more by the knowledge he’d be having birthday Nandos in another four hours.
We made a quick trip to a nearby waterfall (Henrhyd Falls) which is the tallest in South Wales, on the recommendation of the interesting landlord. This was a very pleasant walk, fairly close to the car park. We also saw another pub zoo without the pub, a "wildlife park"”", which featured angry alpacas, micropigs that didn’t look micro, and many small rabbits.
As we drove along the holey track to the SWCC, we passed the others on their way back from OFD1. Brilliant timing. For a weekend that initially seemed like it might not be that good thanks to the rain, the caving done was pretty good indeed.