Caves of South Wales Dragon

Ogof Pwll Swnd

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Overview
Ogof Pwll Swnd is difficult cave to find located on the northeastern flanks of Foel Fraith. Most published guides and reports give incorrect locations and also refer to rock cairns that no longer exist, even the OS maps show the location of the cave incorrectly. The cave is a complex network of passages over several different levels with numerous tight sections especially on the pitches, making this cave quite a serious undertaking.
Length 1410m
Altitude 566m
Grid SN 76239 18341
History
The cave was originally explored in 1939 by Mr A A Hill and Miss G Taylor after the location of the cave was shown to them by a local shepherd. The limit of the cave at this time being the Main Chamber in the Old Series. In 1971 Hereford Caving Club dug through the breakthrough tube to discover some of the lower series of this cave.
Location
The cave is located on the northeastern flank of Foel Fraith, just below an prominent outcrop of Honeycomb Limestone. The cave entrance is a collapsed rift that is only really visible from below. A GPS using the above coordinates is the best way to find the entrance, and will also help on the return journey in poor visibility above ground.
Black Mountain Central Google map showing the location of Ogof Pwll Swnd and other caves in the area.
Location map - click marker to show entrance photo
Access
There are no access restrictions on the cave. The cave is best accessed from Herbert's Quarry some 3km away from the cave which will take about 1 hour to walk across from the car park, assuming you have no great navigational difficulties.
Description
The grass sided collapsed rift on the surface leads to a small triangular opening that drops down a series of boulders to enter a tall rift passage. This entrance passage leads to the head of the first pitch after 18m with an oxbow passage on the left being the only other route on this level. The first pitch is 9m with a natural thread belay or a choice of 8mm spits to rig from. The top section of this pitch is in a very tight rift before the pitch bells out into a small chamber in it's lower section. Three metres from the bottom of the pitch a rift passage leads off, this passage reduces in size to a body size crawl that pops out above a calcite flow into the Main Chamber.
Immediately to the left when entering the Main Chamber is a passage - The Old Series. The Old Series passage is low and awkward to start with but soon increases in size and height. This passage is well decorated in parts and continues for a total of just under 200m. About halfway along is the impressive Lofty Chamber which has a small cascade inlet fed from a shakehole directly above. The Old Series passage has a couple of branches that close down before you have to pass over a couple of pots in the passage to reach the final section and a terminal choke.
In the lower left hand corner of the Main Chamber is a steel gate in the floor, currently held open with some old rope. This is directly over the tight Breakthrough Tube. A fixed rope assists the descent of this tube into a small chamber with sloping mud floor that reaches the top of the Second Pitch.
The Second Pitch is 8m deep rift with some angled steel bars across the rift and old 8mm spits and hangers to provide belay points for the descent. This is a pitch down a rift passage and the section mid way down is quite restricted in size. Once at the bottom of the pitch a short crawl through a tube leads over a hole in the floor into a larger section of passage. In the floor to the left is a cozy descending tube that drops into a sandy floored passage. This can be followed past several side passages including an impressive aven on the right to reach Shatter Corner. Going left from this point you pass some cross rift passages until a low squeeze on the left leads you into the route to Wishing Well Pitch. Wishing Well Pitch is reached after passing through some tight rift passage and then an awkward maneuver up and down a tube with a wet crawl after it. This passage ends in a t-junction, the way on is left to reach the top of the Wishing Well Pitch.
The Wishing Well Pitch drops to a wet dig at the bottom, but halfway down in the right hand wall is a passage that can be followed. An 8m handline can be rigged from a natural thread in the roof of the passage above the pitch to assist with the easy free climb down to the opposite passage. This roomy passage soon arrives at Five Ways Chamber.
A number of passages lead off from 5 Ways Chamber. To the right a passage leads to the North Rift, about 80m of passage with a large pot about half way along that needs to be negotiated to reach the end. Straight on in the floor is one route to Z Chamber which carries a small stream. The main route to Z Chamber is to go immediately left when entering 5 Ways Chamber.
Z Chamber is a key to this lower section of the cave and has a total of 6 routes leading off it.
The passage heading right from Z Chamber leads to the West End where a 15m ladder is required to drop into a small streamway (details to be confirmed).
The passage straight ahead from Z Chamber is South Passage, this continues for some time passing a tube on the right that is believed to drop into the roof of Ringing Chamber. Beyond this tube a traverse over a deep pot leads to a short section of passage before it chokes.
A traverse around the wall to the left of Z Chamber leads into a high level passage - The Gallery, that continues for some distance passing over the top of Ringing Chamber.
Lintel Passage straight ahead in the floor of Z Chamber descends and can be followed some distance passing a small chamber with the passage continuing to the left before you finally arrive in Ringing Chamber.
In the floor of Ringing Chamber a tube leads to the top of a 15m pitch (details to be confirmed) that drops into The Basement, the lowest section of the cave.
Tackle
Pitch 1 - 9 metres
Pitch 2 - 8 metres
Pitch 3 (Wishing Well) - 8 metre handline
Pitch 4a (Basement) - 15 metres
Pitch 4b (West End Pitch) - 15 metres
References
Hereford Caving Club Survey of Ogof Pwll Swnd
Cambrian Cave Registry for Ogof Pwll Swnd
Caves of South Wales | Tim Stratford | ISBN: 1-871890-03-9 | Published by Cordee
The Caves of Carmarthen | Tony Oldham
Warnings
The rock in this cave is loose and friable in common with other caves on the Black Mountain. As many of the pitches are rigged from naturals or 8mm spits extra care will need to be taken. There are no official fixed aids in this cave. There are a number of tight sections in this cave in particular on Pitches 1 and 2, so cavers above average size may have difficulties.
Disclaimer
The photographs and information of this page has been provided to help cavers planning trips. Caving can be a dangerous activity, if you are interested in exploring caves please join a caving club so you can enjoy a safe introduction to this sport. Local caving clubs are listed on the links page or you can visit try caving for more options.
If you feel that any of the information is incorrect or should be updated please contact us.