May 17th - 19th:

The Croesor – Rhosydd through mines trip:

…or how HMS Homer saved the Day!

 A new venue in a small but ‘friendly’ hut, belonging to the Clogwyn Mountaineering Club, made better by dry weather and a good pub not far away!

Most folk arrived by tea time Friday, and a walk was suggested by Andy to ‘suss’ out the mine approach for the following day, as an alternative to going immediately to the pub. A walk along and up the valley from the car park in Croesor, saw six of us rising up and contouring along the side of the valley to end up below the old slate quarry, where tomorrow’s mine entrance was eventually located. A steep descent followed down one of the old inclines to the valley floor and a return along a good track, before a visit to the pub.


Saturday dawned dry and bright as were the members (!), and various plans were laid out: the Johnson clan did a low level walk in and around the Aberglaslyn Pass; the Cotton group went over Cnicht and the Moelwyns; whilst the cavers got organised for the Croesor – Rhosydd Mines through trip, planned by Andy with relevant surveys and local info.

After repeating the previous evenings walk to the slate quarry (though overheating in caving suits), we donned harnesses and SRT gear at the entrance behind the old mine buildings before entering the broken grill into the mine. A walking size passage took us into a large slate cavern, followed by an even larger cavern equipped with bolts at the top but no fixed rope as we had been led to believe. Andy had come prepared and the 8o feet abseil was rigged with one of his older ropes which he chose to abandon. The descent was followed by a rising crossing of the cavern floor amongst huge boulders (George spent much of the time examining the ceiling!), to the second abseil point, which this time was already rigged. A short walk from the base led to a water filled chamber with a 30 feet zip wire with safety line above the water to a ledge on the other side. Then a continuation to an aluminium ladder, suspended horizontally from the roof on cables, across the next small water filled chamber. Further ‘ex-roadway’ passage led to the remains of the roadway suspended from the ceiling, across the next slate cavern, to the passage on the other side. The remains consisted of 2 x 4 inch wooden beams, on edge, about 2 feet apart, one of which appeared rotten. A safety line was strung across the cavern above the beams, with a halfway point fastened to a ‘relic’ metal bar bolted to the ceiling. So followed a delicate walk, with only Syd testing the safety line in error!

Further roadway brought us to the underground lake 20 feet below us and with a Canadian type canoe and a rubber dinghy ‘moored’ half way across, but left on a pulley system – except that they wouldn’t pull! Pulling the line began to bring the canoes towards us but then they jammed, well away from us. Reversing the direction of pull took the boats to the other shore side. With much tugging and shining of lights we realised that the last user had clipped the canoes to both pulley ropes so they never would come to us! Consternation! Do we back track (we had our SRT gear and lucky Andy had left his rope insitu) or does somebody swim for the boats? Everyone looked at each other – a 20 feet abseil into deep, dark, cold water followed by a 30 yard swim in caving gear! Four out of five – no takers! Then Andy stepped in and saved the day. “I’ll go” he said, stripping to his underpants, tee shirt and socks plus lamp, and a buoyancy jacket produced from the tackle bag. George lowered Andy down on the end of our rope. Meanwhile, the Peppit brothers’ produced a plastic blow up Homer Simpson armchair (Mike’s holiday ‘pool side,’ apparently), which had been packed in a tackle bag for just such eventualities. This was lowered down on a line, parallel to Andy. Unperturbed, Andy manoeuvred onto the floating armchair, which took his weight and stayed afloat, so he nonchalantly paddled and pulled on the pulley lines across to the canoes. ‘Falling’ into the canoe, he disentangled the lines and continued across the lake to the far shore, before we retrieved the canoes for our turn! Abseiling 20 feet into a canoe was certainly a new experience, even if it was simpler than it sounds. Relief all round! We’d passed the crux. A scramble up from the far shore, followed immediately by a diagonal descent, brought us underneath the exit passage – rigged again – a 20 feet prussik.

Follow the passage; check the survey; cross a couple of chambers; wriggle through a broken down dry stone wall across the passage (apparently separating the two mines); see daylight; could get out – but no – continue onto another large chamber and a long adit to exit, where we had been on the dinner meet two years ago.

Pause for refreshment. Chocolate sandwich. Return by walking up to the col via various old mine buildings. Ignoring the paths signposted down to Croesor, we followed the traversing slate track to the final incline, which was so steep we had to zig zag down the hillside beyond instead. Returned to the cars at Croesor via the valley track.

Disrobing at the car park, we decided upon a visit to the pub, where we met the walkers and Martin Clowes who had joined us for the Saturday night, and to buy a round before his marriage the following weekend. A pint or two, followed by a fine meal (green Thai curry etc, c/o Rod) with plenty of vino rounded off the evening.

After moving Mike P from his bed on the table (it was a small, friendly hut), Sunday breakfast was followed by clearing and cleaning before departure – some for home, including Rob and Mike complete with alcoholic headaches who abandoned climbing.

Rod and Syd decided on the Moelwyns for a climb (new for Rod) and after a short drive to Tan-y-Grisiau climbed Y-Gelynen, a 250 feet VD on ‘super rock’ on Craig-Yr-Wrysgau finding it worthwhile and good value, especially as it was warm and sunny. Many thanks to Andy for the mines information, making the through trip possible. Good weather, hut and pub all contributed to an excellent weekend.