Ogof Craig a Ffynnon Fifth Choke trip 24/02/2018

Unless otherwise stated, camera, setups, lighting, edits and gallery effects by Tarquin. Modelling and lighting at various points will be Antonia Freem, Duncan Hornby, Ollie Jones, Alan Walsh and Sally Richards.

This gallery is intended to be a complement to my previous gallery, this time concentrating on the earlier parts of the cave, and the enormous passages in the later part. It is best to view this gallery first, and that earlier gallery second.

This time, we had a much larger team and a lot more lighting, intended for Antonia's filming, so the big passages would actually be visible to the camera. This did of course mean that there were two of us with competing needs; me wanting cavers in perfect position for photographs, and Antonia needing movement and changing positions for video. I am therefore extremely grateful to the entire team for their patience in having to position then reposition themselves for both needs.

  1. The incredible profusion of straws in the chambers after the entrance. Apparently (though I cannot remember where I read it), this sort of straw development is most likely to happen beneath a coniferous forest, presumably due to the acidity of the soil. There is no such forest here, but maybe there was in the past. Lighting by Alan and Tarquin
  2. After the initial entrance series breakthrough, the first major exploration obstacle was the First Choke, a major upwards dig through boulders. Modelling by Ollie
  3. Shoring at the top of the choke. Modelling by Antonia, lighting by Tarquin and Antonia
  4. Gasoline Alley, now looking much more normal - compare it with the picture in the other gallery. Modelling by Ollie, lighting by Tarquin and Ollie
  5. Heading into the lowest part. In the past, I would challenge myself to get through with dry hands and feet, and it is possible, but usually some water leaks into one welly. It is more normal to crawl through. Modelling by Ollie, lighting by Antonia and Ollie
  6. Trying to keep dry. Modelling by Duncan, lighting by Antonia, Duncan and Ollie
  7. Two-tone stalagmite. Lighting by Alan, Antonia and Duncan
  8. The two tones. Lighting by Alan, Antonia and Duncan
  9. Formations after Gasoline Alley.
  10. Northwest Inlet, which gets worse (!) before reaching dry passage. The rest of the passage is very well decorated, ending beneath the Hall Of The Mountain King. Modelling by Alan, lighting by Tarquin and Alan
  11. Small side inlet. The green pool is a pool, rather than a sump. Lighting by Alan
  12. The climbs up to Second Choke. The bottom has a ladder, then the top has knotted ropes, and large foot plates. Until relatively recently (in the last 5 years or so), the upper section just had a chain, requiring a slippery scramble up the rift, trying to get enough grip to get up. The foot plates have taken away a lot of the challenge. Modelling by Antonia, lighting by Tarquin and Antonia
  13. The second choke must have been a major obstacle. The entrance to it is tucked into the ceiling at a point where everyone is looking at the old digs to the left and right. The route then zig zags repeatedly while ascending through the choke, seemingly without any obvious sign of which way to dig. Modelling by Ollie, lighting by Tarquin and Ollie
  14. Great for plastering everything in mud. Modelling by Ollie, lighting by Tarquin and Ollie
  15. Once out of the choke, the path becomes a patch of deep, glutinous mud. The challenge is to get to the other end without falling in, and without losing a welly, while trying to find places shallow enough that your boots don't become completely submerged. Accompanied by the squelching and slurping sounds as the vacuum effect of the mud tries to claim your footwear. Modelling by Olli, lighting by Tarquin Alan, Ollie and Antonia
  16. False floor with its mud support slowly being washed away by the tiny stream.
  17. Column and straws in an undercut. Lighting by Alan
  18. Columns in the undercut. Lighting by Alan
  19. Flowstone over bobbly mud.
  20. Straws in the undercut.
  21. Stalactites on a lip.
  22. Calcite fronds on the edge of a dried crystal pool. Lighting by Alan
  23. An iconic set of stal, that could be a drawing in a textbook; this is what a straw, stalactite, stalagmite and column look like. Now all it needs is a ... Lighting by Alan, Ollie and Duncan
  24. ... crystal pool. There it is. But no curtains. The colours look very much like the ones in OFD's Upper Great Oxbow. Lighting by Alan
  25. Stal on the mud.
  26. Drained crystal pools. Lighting by Alan
  27. The size and number of straws has no bearing on the size of the stalagmites and flowstone. Lighting by Alan
  28. Coffin-shaped rock at the start of Travertine Passage. Lighting by Ollie
  29. Stepping around the giant gour pools at the start of Travertine Passage. Modelling by Alan, Duncan and Ollie, lighting by Tarquin, Sally, Alan, Duncan and Ollie
  30. Arrowhead straws in Travertine Passage. These seem to be formed by the draught blowing the water droplets sideways, but each chooses its own direction based on local draught eddies. Lighting by Duncan
  31. The gour pools of Travertine Passage. Modelling by Sally and Alan, lighting by Sally, Alan, Duncan and Ollie
  32. Filming the superb gours. Modelling by Duncan, Ollie, Alan, Sally and Antonia, lighting by Duncan, Ollie, Alan and Sally
  33. Source of the travertine streams; a wall of stal. In wet weather, this streams with beautifully rippling water. Modelling by Sally and Duncan, lighting by Alan, Sally and Duncan
  34. Small fronds in the pools, which have somehow survived despite being part of the path.
  35. Larger fronds, with a dusting of silt.
  36. Straws and flowstone beyond Travertine Passage. Modelling by Alan and Ollie, lighting by Duncan, Alan and Ollie
  37. The flowstone.
  38. Dry gours with mineral stains.
  39. Columns broken by movement of the mud. Lighting by Antonia
  40. Richly coloured gours. Lighting by Antonia
  41. Arrowhead straws. Lighting by Duncan
  42. Cave pearls that have stopped rotating, and become stuck to the floor. Lighting by Antonia
  43. Fried egg stalagmites.
  44. Dried crystal pool with rounded crystals.
  45. Long crystal pool. Lighting by Alan
  46. Rocky crystal pool. Lighting by Alan
  47. Deep colours of a crystal pool. Lighting by Alan
  48. Crystal pool in Hall Of The Mountain King.
  49. Drip pockets in Hall Of The Mountain King.
  50. A mix of stalagmites and drip pockets
  51. Stalagmites and drip pockets
  52. Hall Of The Mountain King, one of the biggest pieces of passage in the cave, and one of the largest in the country. Filled with spectacular, colossal, grand stal, it feels more like a continental cave than a British cave. Lighting by Alan, Ollie and Duncan
  53. The chamber/passage is very tall, with its dome in the ceiling being filled with stal. I had often wondered if there might be a side passage hiding up in the dome, but it can be seen very clearly with these lights, and has no obvious passages. Modelling by Ollie, lighting by Alan, Ollie and Duncan
  54. Beautiful curtains on the side of the dome. Lighting by Alan
  55. Column on the side of the chamber. Lighting by Alan and Duncan
  56. The large passage ends at the enormous third choke, and the way on is into Hurricane Highway. This is the tightest squeeze, out of a calcited bedding. It is not particularly tight, and really just needs careful selection to find the largest ceiling notch, where it is possible to exit the bedding. After some rocky awkwardness, the crawl becomes quite comfortable, but 250 metres long; more crawling than flat out, with a few standing spots. Modelling by Alan, lighting by Tarquin, Alan and Antonia
  57. Perfectly aligned stalagmites in Severn Tunnel. Lighting by Alan and Duncan
  58. 1950s creature feature. Modelling by Duncan, lighting by Tarquin, Antonia and Duncan
  59. After Severn Tunnel, the large passage returns, but without being blessed with a name. Apparently this did not deserve it! Modelling by Sally, Alan, Ollie and Duncan, lighting by Tarquin, Sally, Alan, Ollie and Duncan
  60. Flaked calcite on the mud.
  61. Calcited drip pockets.
  62. Drip pockets.
  63. Bobbly/fluffy mud on the giant mudbanks
  64. The large passage before the boulder ruckle. Setup by Tarquin and Antonia, modelling by Sally, Ollie and Alan, lighting by Sally, Ollie, Alan and Duncan
  65. Grotto in an alcove by the junction with the Promised Land. Lighting by Tarquin, Duncan, Alan and Ollie
  66. Start of the simply enormous passage before Fifth Choke. At the right edge, the stal is the start of Helictite Passage, which was photographed in its entirity in the previous gallery. Setup by Tarquin and Antonia, modelling by Duncan, Sally and Alan, lighting by Ollie, Duncan, Sally and Alan
  67. At the junction of the Fifth Choke and Helictite Passage paths, a few small pieces of white in the mud on the floor turned out to be some more cryostal.
  68. Cryostal.
  69. Looking back towards the start of the passage, with Helictite Passage on the left. Modelling and lighting by Duncan, Ollie, Sally and Alan
  70. Impressively sized passage heading towards Fifth Choke. Modelling by Duncan, Ollie and Alan, lighting by Duncan, Sally, Ollie and Alan
  71. Fifth Choke. Though it is a long way away, this would appear to be the continuation of Busman's Holiday in Daren Cilau, even though Promised Land ends closer to it. Modelling by Alan and Duncan, lighting by Tarquin, Alan and Duncan
  72. Helictites in the roof of the pitch down to Promised Land. As I had seen Helictite Passage - and spent 2 hours photographing it - on a recent trip, I resorted to showing the others to The Pagoda while other sub-teams were visiting the helictites. We then made for a speedy exit (considering how many bags of camera kit we were bringing for the videoing), and reached surface after 8 hr 45 min.