Monday, 23 July 2012

A Rematch with Fault Aven

21st and 22nd July at SWCC

Saturday: Ogof Fynnon Ddu 1 to Cwm Dwr via Fault Aven

A couple of years back I went to try and have a look at the Pom Pom, a formation in Fault Aven, high above the OFD streamway. We saw some pretty cool stuff that day, but had not quite gotten to the Pom Pom so I vowed to return one day for a second attempt, this time with a camera.
Calcite flow on a false floor
Matt, Jess, Nial, Kathryn and I set off from the OFD 1 entrance and were soon splashing up the streamway. Previous trips to OFD1 had always required a leader, so we'd never had to navigate ourselves; this time however, we were on our own. Nevertheless, through a combination of following the polish, using a description and a couple of minor wrong turns, we squirmed our way through the boulder choke, the Connection, and the Letterbox (I used up all my mail-based puns last time, but we got through in a jiffy). After a damp climb down from the top of the Diver's Pitch we were into Cwm Dwr.
We walked through Cwm Dwr's large sandy passages, and back to the streamnway, where, soon enough, I recognised the scaffold bar which helps you up the first awkward climb towards Fault Aven. The pitch up followed, and I managed to pull the rope up on the in situ cord and through the hangers at the top without too much difficulty. Kathryn belayed me and I climbed up, winning lots of "man points" in the process, but using up pretty much a whole weekend's worth of nerve at the same time. I rigged an extra hand line and belayed the others up.
The Pom Pom

Now in the Fault Aven Series proper, we first found the impressive calcite flow over a false floor that I'd seen last time. Soon afterwards we found the traverses towards Pom Pom Passage. Finding the lack of floor somewhat perturbing, I held back for a while (man points lost again), and Jess (immune to passages with no floor), Matt and Nial went first. I soon followed and it turns out that actually the traverses are not too horrendous at all and the floor isn't that far away. The trickiest bit is a very wide "back and legs" sytle stretch to avoid muddying some of the stunning calcite floor.

The Pom Pom itselft was amazing: a straw down into a lovely crystal pool, at the end of which (underwater) a cricket ball-sized crystal has grown. I've certainly never seen anything like that before. In fact I wouldn't have been surprised to find some hens teeth scattered around the passage nearby. Traversing over the floor we found the crystal pool I'd seen last time (about 10 metres away - we were so close!) and headed round to the top of the awkward climbs which lead back down to where Kathryn was waiting, so she could come and have a look.

After somehow mandhandling each other back down the climbs, we abseiled back down the pitch on Italian hitches and headed back out of Cwm Dwr via a couple of great side passages: Hoel Eira with it's huge moonmilk flow and another very nice sandy passage with a small stream in the Piccadily area. Great trip!
Crystal Pool
More photos here.
Time underground: 8 hrs

Sunday: Pant Mawr Pot

Pant Mawr has an impressive daylight entrance shaft, marred only by a foul smelling dead sheep which seems to have landed precisly where the abseil drops you (I guess that's no coincidence...). After a quick look upstream (with some impressive phreatic shelving), Nial, Kathryn, Aiora, Olaf, Siobhan and I spent an hour or so working our way through the impressively large downstream passage as far as the sump, which is surprisingly small. We had a look at the climb up to one of the pretty higher level grottoes but it looked a bit desperate so warrants a return trip with some slings/rope/bravery.

Back at the entrance pitch, Nial prussiked up and chucked our ladders down. It turns out two ladders strung together are the correct length for the pitch to within a few inches - the last rung just swings gracefully through the sheep's innards on the floor...

Olaf's photos here.

Time underground: 2.5 hrs

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