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It was 40 years ago on Saturday . .

by PCW ~, 17 September 2007

If you were a sheep at the top of the hill above Penwyllt on September 15th 1967, you would be forgiven for thinking that the humans had gone quite mad. A group of people were gathered around an ordinary looking scruffy piece of ground, with crow bars and a bulky radio, and were getting quite excited.

What the sheep didn't know was that some hours earlier, other humans had set off into the lower, Cwm Dwr entrance and had begun to work their way up the cave, up inside the hill retracing the routes that they and others had only recently discovered. Crawling, squeezing, walking, splashing, scrambling, thrutching and chimneying up and upwards. They finally returned to a spot that they were convinced was close to the surface.

After a while the radio crackled into life, and those on the surface may well have started clanging their crow bars on the surface rocks and then cupping their ears to listen. From below, the team had been following large walking sized passages until, disappointed, they came to a mud slope that rose up ahead of them blocking their path. However, on that day, as on previous occasions they noticed snails, dead flies and evidence of other surface wildlife nearby and even found a horses head revealed in their headlamps. They were onto something.

With only their bare hands they began to pull down the mud and frost-shattered rocks and soon, a small hole to daylight was openend up and those on the surface passed crowbars, a shovel and shouts of encouragment to those below. Quickly a man sized hole was made, and grubby faces squeezed out into the daylight and into a new era. Top Entrance was open!

Among those present at the breakthrough in 1967 were:
Hywell Ball, Noel Christopher, Paul Deakin, Colin Fairburn, Bruce Foster, Peter Harvey, Mike Holhead, Clive Jones, Bill Little, Henry Mares, Terry Moon, Paddy and Susan O'Reilly, John Osborne, Jem Rowland, Rod Stewart and Clive Westlake.

"Terry Moon emerging victorious" in 1967

Forty years on to the day, and three of the original explorers, Paul Deakin, Peter Harvey and Clive Westlake gathered at the club with newer members to celebrate this breakthrough and the first Through Trip. While Peter didn't feel that his legs were quite up to it, Clive, Paul and the others set off up the hill with cake and champagne, and headed for Big Chamber Near The Entrance. (Pictures by Pete Hobson)

Clive Westlake Steve West and Helen Brooke

Through trip teams last Saturday:

Cwm Dwr - Top Entrance: Nicky Bayley, Dave Mullin, Helen Brooke, Stuart Gardiner, Max Hunter, Paul Deakin, Clive Westlake.
OFD 1 - Top Entrance: Bob Radcliffe (who created the dry connection from 1 to Cwm Dwr) and Pete Hobson.
Top Entrance - Top Waterfall: Gareth Jones and Daffydd Jones.
Top Entrance Food + Drink Team: Steve West, Janice Smith.
General Organisation: Helen Brooke

Paul Deakin and Clive Westlake . . . . .showing us how it should be done - on film!
Steve West in his best "early explorer" pose!

Now we just need the Ogof Ffynnon Ddu to Ogof Pant Mawr connection - any takers?