DCC North Wales Slate Weekend

Cwmorthin Underground Slate Quarry
Gwynfynydd Gold Mine

Cwmorthin Entrance

This weekend had been on the calendar for some time, and the plan was to go and play on the new Go Below zip wires in Cwmorthin on the Sunday, and a loose idea to possibly do the Croesor-Rhosydd Through Trip on the Sunday depending on who turned up. Or more likely a gold mine that Joel had in mind near the campsite we were meant to be staying at. In any case on Friday night I had a phone call from Joel to say that Martin Poole had offered us the option of staying in the old Mine Manager's office next to Cwmorthin. This seemed like a good option as anyone who has camped around Ffestioniog in April will know, the weather is unpredictable at best, and is more often pretty damn grim. I set the meeting time nice and early - 11.00am at the Lakeside Cafe in Tanygrisiau. As if this wasn't late enough snow had delayed James' arrival by half an hour, so in true DCC fashion it was well gone noon by the time we got underground. Joel and Speedy having long since left to go and check out some repairs that need doing in Croesor. So me, John Capper, Owen Thomas and James Johnson were in the able hands of Mr Richard Timms and Mr Andrew Farrow having done the trip before. I had tried one of the zip lines in July but we did not factor in the time to do any more that we saw.
Andy on "The Springboard"
And so onto the zip wires... For those who are not aware a company called Go Below run adventure based trips into Cwmorthin Slate Mine. They have recently installed zip wires over several of the old chambers that used to be spanned by the timber miner's bridges, most are missing and long since rotted away. As a suitably equipped and experienced group from a caving club, you can visit Cwmorthin for free, and use the bolts for abseiling, in-situ traverses and zip lines as long as you do not get in the way of the paying public. For more information and how to plan a trip see: http://www.cwmorthin.org/how_to_visit.asp

I found the traverses problematic, my cows tails were set up for SRT caving, too short for the traverses and even some of the cables. Compounded by the fact that I am a shortarse and don't enjoy traverses, I found myself improvising with a mixture of sling, extra carabiners, and Andy's trick of using a crab on the end of your hand jammer I ended up longing for my climbing harness. The zip lines are a lot of fun, using 3 pulleys between 6 of us was slightly faffy and time consuming, but caused no real problem.
Llyn Cwmorthin
We emerged around 6.00pm to a gloriously sunny and calm evening, checked out the exterior of the accommodation for the evening, and headed back to the cars to arrange food and meet Martin, who had passed us underground earlier guiding a tour. Chippy and car shuffle done, we started the walk back up to Cwmorthin wondering how much longer Joel and Speedy were going to be. Our worst fears were affirmed about the hut when Marty opened the door. The main selling point from my point of view was the plastic sheet roof, fortunately the weather was very kind to us and the night was frosty but still. Marty had acquired some logs for a fire, and so we thought our nights sleep would at least be warm and cosy. Alas the wood refused to burn with any real flame, and only served to draw cold air into the hut. But as we kept telling ourselves, it was still better than camping, right? James went home after an hour, Richard had departed to a friends house, and Speedy decided that he preferred the idea of camping. An early night for me at 1am preceded a troublesome nights "sleep", and we were all up nice and early to admire our morning view over the lake.
To be sat in the Lakeside cafe (or any sort of cafe) at 9.00am is some sort of record at least for me if not the whole DCC. As we had all done CRTT before, Joel and Speedy only the day before, we decided Joel's idea of Gwynfynydd Gold Mine was an excellent idea. Even though it was about half an hours drive away, the early start meant we could still get a good trip in there. Unsure of the access details for this mine, we set off with Richard informing us that work is due to start on draining the flooded levels, with a view to eventually reopening the mine soon. The way in isn't particularly easy to find, although Andy and Richard knew exactly what they were looking for, and we came across several other openings on our way down the hill. This mine is an awesome little trip, and has a fair bit of stuff left in it. The mine has been in operation since the 1860s until closure in 1998.
John & Joel admiring the Hopper
Flooded level
I must have had selective hearing enabled when we were discussing if there was any water in there and how deep it was. There isn't really any, until right at the end, and it was waist deep wading for me. only five or ten minutes in the water but my camera wasn't in a drum so I was worried about my bag getting wet. Turned out to be fine, a cold and breezy walk saw us back at the cars getting changed for around 3.00pm. All in all a great weekend with great company and underground fun. Many thanks to John Capper for driving, Joel Colk for helping with organising and snoring, and Owen, Speedy, Andy, James and Martin. Cheers guys :)

Joel with Magnesium Ribbon