Pwll y Gwynt
Pwll y Gwynt is somewhat of a collector’s item due to its obscure location and sporting nature, but fans of unusual caves should find this a fun venture underground. The cave is best described as a sequence of impressive avens connected by narrow rifts, rope climbs and crawls. There’s also a notably muddy section and a particularly challenging final pitch, but don’t let that put you off exploring this unique Llangattock cave.
NGR: SO 18804 15681 - what3words: ///rocky.dust.inflation - Length: 260m
This cave can be difficult to find, hidden above a scree slope 90m higher than the tramroad leading to Agen Allwedd. To get there, follow the tramroad from Whitewalls past Eglwys Faen to a point where the path crosses an area of scree which has a stream running in wet weather, just before the cliff where the Agen Allwedd entrance is located. Follow this slope upwards until level with the top of the scree slope on the right, then bear right to reach another gully which should be followed upwards. Just below the cliffs at the top, look for an outcrop of rock on the grassy bank to the right. The entrance to Pwll y Gwynt is a body-sized tube beneath a rocky bluff, difficult to spot until you are right next to it. Scaffold poles are visible just inside the entrance.
This cave is better suited to SRT rigging rather than ladders, with the exception of the descent of Sixth Aven which may be better rigged with a ladder due to the tightness of the crawl to the pitch head. Wearing SRT kit here is a definite encumbrance!
First Pitch – 25m rope or 21m ladder and double lifeline.
Fifth Aven – 24m rope (allowing for rope to be doubled for the de-rigger) or 10m ladder and double lifeline.
Sixth Aven – 8m rope or 6m ladder and double lifeline.
Note: The fixed rope to assist the first climber on Fifth Aven is of unknown vintage and has obviously been in situ for some time. It is best not to rely on it any more than necessary.
No access restrictions.
The body-sized entrance tube leads directly to the head of the 21m deep entrance pitch. This has 2 scaffold bars in place for use as belays. The first of these should be used as a back-up, while the second provides the best hang for the pitch. The pitch has a ledge half way down and beyond this opens up becoming more of a circular pot. At the bottom, First Aven is reached with two routes. The squeeze down to a lower rift doesn’t go very far before reaching a choke, the way on is through the tight rift leading to Second Aven. This emerges into the aven via a narrow vertical squeeze and from here a 10m crawl leads to a ledge 5m above the floor of Third Aven. Follow this ledge, heading left to a short crawl, followed by a climb up to reach a window 5m above the floor of Fourth Aven. An alternative route is to descend the Third Aven to reach “Quick Way”, a 412m muddy crawl leading to Fifth Aven, but this is not actually quicker and completely bypasses the best aven.
From the window, there is a fixed knotted rope to aid the 5m descent to the bottom of this aven which towers up over 45m high. This has been climbed, but no high-level route found. The way on is a low crawl on the opposite side of the aven, and from here onwards the journey starts to get significantly muddier. The crawl leads to a drop down a small pot then a T-junction; turn left here as the passage closes down to the right. Soon after, a drop down, a short section of walking and then a climb up leads to a squeeze into a grotto. There are some quite pleasant formations in this section of the cave, so care should be taken not to muddy them further. The right-hand direction soon closes down, so continue on the low crawl heading left, then take a left again before the next T-junction (this one closes down in both directions). Muddy crawling continues before a tight squeeze over a calcite floor enters larger passage once more. The 3m climb up to the bottom of Fifth aven is soon reached, with a fixed rope for the ascent. Below the climb is where Quick Way enters, joining the continuation of the passage via a dig at the end.
The climb up Fifth Aven should be rigged with your own rope rather than relying on the in situ one as this is not only of unknown vintage, but also incredibly thick. The best way to do this is to send the best climber of your team up first, using the fixed rope as a safety line. Once up, a rope can then be rigged for the rest of the team. When descending the pitch on your way back the rope can be rigged as a pull-through for the last person down.
Above the Fifth Aven pitch, a spacious ledge is reached with 3 crawls heading off. Two of these silt up after only a short distance, while the third is a small tube leading to Sixth Aven. This is incredibly tight and not worth even considering if you’re anything other than skinny. Another problem with this tube is that SRT kits tends to snag, so it’s easy to find yourself wedged by your kit – especially on the return. As there is no room to don your kit beyond the tube it is perhaps best to use a ladder and lifeline here instead, making sure there is something to clip into for safety at the pitch head. Either way, to rig the pitch you’ll need to squeeze along the tube headfirst until it emerges at a tiny window in the vertical wall of the aven, 8m above the floor. The bolt to rig this is an arms-length above and the only way to reach it is to lay on your back with your body in the squeeze and water falling on your face. De-rigging is also done by the same method, so you’ll need to post yourself in feet first and reverse out of the squeeze. Once down at the foot of Sixth Aven it’s not much further to the end of the cave. A passage leads to a low wet crawl to a small chamber, followed by another wet crawl to a dig in sand and cobbles.