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OFD 2 Flood Rescue 7/8 June

by PCW ~, 10 June 2009

Jopo reports: Two parties, one of 3 and the other 2, were overdue at 22.00 on Saturday 7th June. As they were the only cavers staying at Penwyllt that weekend it is very fortunate that Gareth Davies was flooded out of a campsite and decided to retreat to Penwyllt where he found the tickets on the board. Gareth started the callout at 23.15. The police were informed at 23.21

Both parties were from Aberystwyth. One party of 3 had left at 12.00 for a Cwm Dwr to Top through trip. Toby and Jopo told them that it had been dry and that any run-off would be swift. They were aware of this and said they would take it into consideration when seeing what the stream was like.
The second party entered Top at 17.00 to meet up with the through trip party.

The second party met the first in the Streamway and they all started back to Maypole Inlet. It seems all went well until they were just before the Dolomite ledges when they were hit with a flood pulse. Things became a little desperate and they 'roped up' and forced their way upstream to Maypole Inlet to find the ladder under such a force of water that they could not get up it - they report it was completely hidden by the waterfall.

They got onto a ledge but after about an hour decided that they were not high enough with the stream still rising and managed to climb onto a boulder bridge, experiencing a bit of a boulder fall in the effort. They were well equipped with bivi bags, food, candles and a whistle and managed to construct a bivi tent in which they huddled for some 5 hours. They had used slings to gain the bridge and could have possibly got back down if the water had subsided - which it didn't . There was a severe storm at about 18.00 locally.

From the log.

23.15 Callout started.
00.30 Party of 3 into Top. Heyphone party to surface location
Call out continues. Many messages left. See note below.
02.37 Poor contact with u/g Heyphone at Maypole Inlet. 'Unknown party met'
02.51 Better contact. All safe.
03.21 All on way out
03.40 Party of 5 on way in with comforts
04.23 All out and back at Penwyllt.

The trapped party had to be roped back to safety by the search team and were very grateful to see Messrs Quill, Paul Tarrant and Steff Davies. One of the party had lost a boot in the Streamway but were otherwise ok.
The trapped party had made the right decisions in response to the rising water and were well equipped. They spent some 5 hours sitting and waiting it out.

They had considered going back downstream when the flood pulse hit them but - in our opinion - did the only sensible thing and carried on against the flow. We are sure that given the intensity of the flood that turning around would have been very dangerous and possibly fatal.

27 members were called out, (on the basis that we were implementing our phased search pattern, plus the fact that there could have been injuries or worse and the weather was still foul).

The team's thanks to all that were woken up and turned out.

~ Jopo