Owain has been caving a number of times before but wanted to develop his technical skills and experience in order to develop his confidence and ability to cave elsewhere. To facilitate this we set up a caving adventure at Porth yr Ogof, planning a series of challenges and coaching opportunities, allowing us to meet Owain's targets for his day.
Porth yr Ogof boasts the largest cave entrance in Wales but also the largest number of entrances to the same cave system and this gave us the perfect base for a navigation and rope-work adventure.
We began by setting up an assisted hand-line to make a controlled rope descent into the cave from one of the 'aven' entrances (a vertical tube) leading from the surface into the heart of the cave and from there began a practical coaching session on using cave surveys to navigate. This was a real challenge because we had bypassed the most obvious 'main entrance' and because the cave survey is multi-layered and shows passages which are above and below you within the same 2D printed map. We coached Owain on methods of navigating by features as well as by compass bearing and he was soon confidently leading us around the cave.
While Owain navigated, we paused the workshop every now and then as we found cave features and challenges worth exploring further. These included the famous 'toilet' passage which connects one level of the cave to another with a wet crawl through the 'u-bend', the 'letterbox' where you can post yourself through the narrow gap of a bedding plane between two flat layers of limestone, crawling across the cobbles and sand of the 'maze', exploring a climb up a tall rift, navigating through 'the creek', finding bullhead fish in the 'great bedding chamber' and studying stalactites and stalagmites in the large river chamber.
Owain was working his way through the larger passageways of the cave but keen to be pushed and so we set off to find the 'white line challenge' and then 'Sarah's Passage' with a wet entry into the 'Tradesman' Entrance'. This route took us past the inside of the Main Entrance which must be one of my favourite sights and I never grow bored of seeing it - measuring 15m wide by 4m high it is the most wonderful window looking into the beautiful green gorge outside.
Owain did superbly well finding the narrow passages that are marked only as dotted lines within the complex cave survey and which change between height levels within the cave and so we took over the lead in order to show him some of the other treasures of Porth yr Ogof - the jet black limestone worn smooth in popular areas by the flow of water (and thousands of cavers), the sharp limestone in hidden passages away from the 'beaten track', a number of fossils to be found within the rock walls and floors, the upturned canoe (well, it looks like it) leading the way out of the far end of the cave and finally a gentle wander through the dry river valley above the cave, pointing out reference points to our adventure under our feet, as we walked back up to the car park.
Why not join us for your very own caving adventure? We are happy to guide you as an individual or as a group or with your family and will create an adventure day to meet your needs - whether that is a beginner trip, a technical skills day or a day of caving challenges and squeezes.
We are also very happy to arrange trips with a more educational focus, linking the cave (development and geology) with the landscape and history of the area, for home-school / home educators families or groups - please send us an email to discuss how we can support your learning.
We provide you with caving suits, helmets and torches - all you need is your wellies, a change of clothes, snacks and a sense of adventure!
Please check out the caving page on our website and choose between a caving adventure at Porth yr Ogof, the nearby Nedd Valley, across the National Park at Llangattock or at Gilwern Hill and Clydach Gorge.