Sunday, 11 August 2013

9th August 2013 - Journey through the mountain

After a quick lunch we started packing in the car park.  SRT kit, pulleys, buoyancy aid, puncture repair kit, bicycle pump...  This wasn't going to be just any old trip.


A short section along the road and we soon began the slow but steady rise up the incline from Croesor village to its namesake slate mine.
Leaving the Croesor car park
Nestled within the ruined buildings lay the entrance adit and with a quick change of clothes we were ready to head underground.

The entrance adit to Croesor
This was mining on a scale I'd never seen before and after walking for around 400m along the adit from the portal we arrived in a huge marshalling yard with a flooded incline leading to lower levels.  Our route lay up another incline but a short side trip lead to a flooded stope, possibly one of the eeriest places I've ever visited.
At the top of the incline a short walk lead to the top of the first abseil.  With the rope carefully checked and found to be in excellent condition, Dick set off down.  It's at this point you start to realise the amount of work someone has put into making this trip a possibility.  Thick plastic sheeting was bolted over any sharp edge that may damage the rope and precisely the right length deviations keep the rope in place.

The first abseil
Inspecting the rope at the top of the first abseil
It's after the second abseil that the fun begins.  Back in the day the mine wagons would have trundled through mined out chambers, perched on bridges hung from the ceiling.  While this must have been quite a sight, time has taken its toll on the bridge supports and now a number of ingenious solutions have been found to cross each chamber.

The zip wire
The zip wire would be great even if it were above ground. Underground though and over a deep blue pool of water, with reflections from your head torch beamed onto the roof above, it's absolutely fantastic.  It's no wonder that some have worked hard to get back across, just to have another go.

The suspension bridge
Next up is a suspension bridge, engineered perfectly so you skim the water at the central point of your crossing. 
Tyrolleans and traverse lines then follow, the variety maintaining interest constantly.

The tyrolean traverse over one of the collapsed bridges
As with many of the best things in life, the best is saved till last and the final abseil lands you in a canadian canoe, complete with rubber dinghy tender.

The end of our canoe journey
At the end of one of the most surreal paddles I've ever enjoyed, a short jummar leads back up to the continuation passage.

Saying goodbye to the canoe
From here we waved good bye to our trusty vessel before continuing on to meet a demolished wall with curled back reinforcing bars.  This is the connection point between the Creosor and Rhosydd mines.

Entering Rhosydd mine
Rhosydd has a very different feel to it with a bit more scrambling around than in Croesor.  Before long though daylight is seen filtering from the huge opening on the hillside, the West Twll.

First daylight from the West Twll
Counter intuitively the route heads back down into the mine, away from daylight, down a long incline which leads in turn to the 9 adit.  600m away a bright spot of light indicated the portal to day and the end of our trip.

Light at the end of the number 9 adit

As at Croesor the portal is surrounded by ruined mine buildings, giving an indication of the sheer size of the operation in its hey day.

The exit from Rhosydd
While I've been told that spending your birthday underground isn't the best way of celebrating, Dick from deep in his tackle sack produced one of the finest birthday teas I've ever had.  Ham sandwiches and Smartie cake all washed down with a can of Black Sheep.

Fantastic birthday party
From the exit, it was a pleasant half mile or so walk back to the Croesor entrance and our bikes.  While pushing our bikes up had taken 50 minutes we were back at the road in 5 and the pub in 10, a terrific ending to a truly superb trip.

Back at the pub
Cheers to all the people who have put in hard work to make this such a sporting trip, installing the rigging and rope protectors.  Your work is very much appreciated.

A few video clips...
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