Adam, Ben, Chris A, Chris H, Luke, Maddie, Mark, Tom H, Tom L
Milwr Tunnels - BBPC
The weekend began in standard fashion. A vague plan which due to the snow was even vaguer. Team badgers turned up at my mum's house to find no one home, Chris A and myself were out visiting the small one and her family. After a quick hop to the house we found a small snow barricade and several armed snowballers. After the required hugs and mild insults were over some badgers went to collect supplies whilst the rest essentially just hugged a radiator for an hour. Once we were all back together a mix of sledging and snowballs occurred until it was starting to get dark. We arrived back at the house to find Chris A in his usual position (under a car), apparently snow is the ideal weather for car modification.
The evening was spent drinking and eating food, but not as most people would know it. The food was cooked on a BBQ in some sort of weird Scandinavian hut which came with the house. The fire took a while to get going and so smoked badgers were on the menu. We manned through the situation using chocolate boxes and a fan heater to sort out the situation until it became quite pleasant in the hut. Drink occurred well into the night until it was time for the badgers to go to their sets ready for tomorrow.
As always we awoke far too late and faffed far too much, but still managed to leave vaguely on time. Escaping from my house in the snow took a little effort but victory was achieved. We met our guides for the day (Mike and Doug) at a local pub and then proceeded to one of the many entrances of the Milwr system. The snowy scene helped us change into our gear at a record pace, and with the system being non SRT we were able to shed some weight. The walk to the entrance was only a short one and we were all eager to get into the entrance and out of the cold outside air.
Chris A and myself were the only ones in our group to have been down Milwr before so we were again thankful to have guides who would be able to both keep us on track and tell us more about the system on the way down. The entrance was part of the old end of the mine and so required much ducking and awkward walking to get anywhere and I was thankful when we finally reached the ladders as it meant I could stretch out. We filed down the ladders with shouts of ladder free echoing round the shafts as we all headed deeper and deeper into the mine. We all seemed to have fairly similar paces and so were able to reach the bottom of the ladders more or less evenly spaced. From there on it was only a short walk to get to a junction in the main stream way, the setting for some hearty elevenses.
We had been warned that the water was relatively high at the moment and that we would have some serious upstream walking to do later but for now the going was easy. After our quick rest some of our fellow cavers we were with headed in the opposite direction to the one we were going in, leaving us to head off north along the path which eventually entered the stream. The trudge through the water was deeper than last time with the water around thigh depth and flowing at a fair pace, our way back would be a tiring one indeed. There was a handy rest stop (an old pumping station) on our way down the stream way which allowed us to catch our breath before ploughing on. We eventually stopped at the workshops which are next to the base of the main shaft. There were several points of interest around here including the old battery charging station and a few old loco's. After a quick photo shoot and look around we headed off to look at the more modern limestone workings. Interestingly the dynamite we found on our last visit had been removed by someone, it was sweating quite a lot when we were there so it must have been a interesting task. Our way onwards took us into the large cut out limestone chambers complete with mine carts which could still move, top class bearings! After more photos it was time for a spot of lunch (smoked sausages and chocolate).
After lunch we began by climbing into a side passage and then through some traversing and then laddering we reached an upper passage. We followed this passage for about 15 minutes until we were approaching the sound of tumbling water. We had come out some way up the main shaft, the shaft itself seemed to be shifting a fair amount of water. It was more ladders to get down to the stream way level with only a short pause when some unknown object came tumbling down the side of the ladders.
At the base of the ladders we all met up and prepared ourselves for the long slog up the stream way. The walk itself seems blocked out of memory. When I think back all I can remember is trudging along and then some time later we reached the end. It can't have been that bad as I was still standing at the end but several people had crotch issues from the straining against flowing water. It was time to make our break for fresh air and freedom. We headed back for the ladders and began our climb out. There were only short pauses for when Chris A rubbed mud into his eye and for when nature got its revenge on Tom L by dropping a rock on his helmet. Much like last time the climb out seemed to take much less time than was pre-imagined and we were soon doing the awkward crouch/walk through the old passages. One fairly substantial head butt of the wall later and we were in the outside world, still very white and if anything even colder than earlier.
Once we were back at the car we took part in some speed changing and tried our best to put the wet mess which is caving equipment into bags. We said out goodbyes to Mike, thankful that he had again agreed to take up down Milwr and then headed home to tidy up my mum's house before departing to our various corners of the country after a further 4 hours of car faffing about.
All in all a good trip, hopefully one we can repeat in the summer when it’s drier and easier to explore deeper into the system.
Chris H's photos from the system can be seen here.
TomTom (Tom H, T-Dowg, Rev T-Dowg etc) x