One of our regulars wanted to bring a climber friend of his down. And that sounded fine; the trip is sometimes underestimated and attempted by badly prepared and badly equipped people. But of all above-ground people, it would be climbers that would probably be best ones to try it. Good with ropes, strong in the arms; just what you need!
We would be six altogether. Half of us would have done it before. This time we would go from the Cwmorthin car park; whichever way you go, it's a beautiful walk. We met two German chaps who intended to do the same trip; rock climbers as well. We figured they'd go in front; for one reason, as they were rather fit and one of us wasn't, so we were slow doing the uphill walk; for another, they hadn't done it before and might be reassured by the knowledge were would be coming up behind them in case they got in trouble. But no; they let us go first and kept a respectful distance.
Walking past Cwmorthin lake with beautiful reflections
We went in. It had been a while but it looked familiar! Until we got to the first drop. From the messiest rig in the world it had been upgraded to a very tidy one with a nicely new rope. Good! (Look at the previous report to see why that was a welcome sight!) We went down without incident. And down the second pitch too. And then there was the zipline (I didn't manage to go very fast) and the wobbly bridge (last time it surely was less wobbly!). All was going well!
The first drop. Pic by Simon
We came to the Bridge of Minor Ailments (or whatever it's called; as long as it's clear it's not anywhere near the Bridge of Death) and all was well there too. We shimmied across. The traverse was a bit of a nuisance but no more than that. And then it was the Bridge of Death's turn! And that's the bottle neck.
David on the Bridge of Minor Ailments. Pic by Simon
Briony on the traverse. Pic by Simon
There's so little left of the bridge you have to shimmy along a steel cable bolted into the ceiling. It has an extra attachment point in the middle, which complicates things; it means you have to either work with two pulleys, and somehow manage to move yourself from one to the other, or manage to move your pulley from one side of the attachment point to the other. And the problem is that in order to be able to propel yourself you have to hang really close to the cable. The closer to it you are, though, the harder the change-over in the middle is. I went for the close option; last time I struggled more with moving across the cable than with switching to the other cable. This time we had a footloop to stand in; that worked fine. I couldn't possibly do it standing on the beam!
Edwyn making the change-over look relaxed. Pic by Simon
We did it with two pulleys, so we had to keep pulling them back and forth along the rope. We also had to ferry kit around; we were wearing buoyancy aids for in case the whole structure would come out of the ceiling and plummet into the icy water, but we only had four for six people. And if you hung by your cowstails from the pulley you had nothing to secure yourself with in the middle, so then you needed two pairs. And we sent the bags on their own to make things easier. A lot of faff!
We all made it across, some with a bit more swearing than others. Time to head for the last hurdle; the chamber with the canoe! It was still there. Edwyn abseiled into it and I followed. I ended up in the very front. The rope was near the rear but Edwyn struggled to find the bit we needed to pull. Once he'd found it and give it to me (best to go front first) I turned out to have quite a talent for somehow going sideways and bumping into things. Oh well, we got there! And we found Paul back, who had just pottered around in Rhosydd a bit. He wasn't up for the through trip. We had already heard him whooping from the Bridge of Death. Now we were reunited!
Edwyn abseils down into the canoe. Pic by Simon
In the meantime, Rich (the climber) and David appeared. Last were Simon and Briony; they struggled a bit, as the rope along which you pull yourself along had snagged and snapped. They had to manage with improvised paddles, and then re-tie the rope. But then most was over! We were almost in Rhosydd. While David and I waited for Simon and Briony the rest went ahead, and put the kettle on in a nearby chamber. Time for soup! By then it was 18:20 (we had gathered for breakfast at 10AM). Time flies.
We went on. We got to the Twll Mawr, where last time we had gone out, but not this time. We would go the proper way out; through the long adit you pass when you walk up the way we had, and where we had left Paul. It was a much more efficient way, and indeed it felt more proper. When we got out we ended up in a cloud. Too bad; it had been blue sky when we got in! But while we walked down the clouds lifted and we got to see beautiful pink evening skies.
Coming out of the adit in the fog
Pink skies over Cwmorthin
By the time we finally were down and changed I was keen to go home. The plan was to go for a curry but I decided to bail out. The next day we had rescue training, so there was no rest for the wicked! It had been fun, but it had also been a 12 hour day and that was without dinner; you don't want to do that too often!