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Trip to Ogof Hesp Alyn -- 29/4/2007

Group: Dennis, Mary, Paul, Dave

Having decided to go caving we had the option of a nice clean Yorkshire cave or a muddy North Wales one. Dennis had previously offered a tour of Hesp Alyn and so we opted for this since the weather was stable.

The car park at the Cilcain Bridge was full and so we parked just over the bridge, got changed in the warm sunshine and walked along the river to avoid the normal uphill route. For future reference this is not recommended, the rocks in the river are slippy and there are deep pools even though the water level was low.
Dave had assumed we were going to sump1 and had taken 3 ropes, expecting Dennis to provide the other two. Dennis hadn't planned going further than the top of the first pitch and so didn't bring any gear other then a ladder. It was decided to go down the first pitch, maybe look at the second and then return.

The entrance was quickly reached and the ladder and satefy line rigged. We then climbed down the 8m entrance pitch and crawled along the low wet section through muddy pools of various depths. The pools where interspered with drier sections where it was possible to stand. Some wag had filled discarded gloves with a mud/sand mix and propped them up on ledges - These at least provided a set of markers for the return journey, not that it is easy to get lost as there is a telephone wire from the entrance pitch all the way through to the main pitches.

After the pools are a couple of short climbs using fixed knotted ropes and the passage becomes walking height. There is still plenty of mud and the limestone is liberally coated in it. The ceiling of the passages is slightly domed and there appears to be some variation in the colour of the passage walls presumably caused by regular flooding. The passage drops to a low curtain forcing you to grovel again in muddy water and then a 'T' Junction is reached.

After this there is a bit more scrambling over muddy blocks and then the passage climbs up a slope on the RHS and you can look back the way you came through a 'letterbox'. Shortly after this the start of the sand crawl is reached.

The North Wales Caving Club have expended some time trying to stabilise the crawl and dig out a lot of the sand. This is evidenced by the collection of builders bags, a hauling line and a wheelbarrow. Even so the passage is quite constricted in places when you are hauling rope sacks.

Just after the crawl is a domed chamber and after some scrambling is a vertical pitch. This section is a bit confusing as there was a fixed rope which Dave climbed onto a set of precarious ledges. After hauling up the packs a dodgy climb forward revealed a very exposed and dangerous climb down. It looked like there was a lower passage through which Mary investigated and then had the luxury of being bombed with gear packs for her trouble. Dave retreated back down the rope and followed the others through the small passage. Around about here Mary's light went out and the backup had to be deployed. A little further on was the 'real' 8m pitch with a knotted rope ahd SRT line. Dave managed to get to the top using a set of footloops to help near the top. Paul followed in a similar manner, but Mary and Dennis declined to climb up and decided to return.

Carrying on the passage led over a series of fallen blocks and rifts to the canal. This had a fixed rope along the RHS which disappeared around a corner. The water was chest deep and very cold. Ledges under the water prevented you disappearing, though negotiating the section where the passage turns the corner and lowered was interesting. Just after the canal more fallen blocks are encountered and a short way ahead was the first pitch complete with a couple of eco bolts.

We pondered whether to continue, but in the end decided it was a bit risky with just two of us and so decided to retreat. The return though the canal was just as wet as before.

We made good progress back to the entrance and derigged. It was suprising to get back to the car and find the other two only just getting out of their caving gear. We will obviously have to do it again, the others need more practise!

Overall trip time about 3-4 hours.