07 May 2022

New ground in Cwmorthin

I think my frequent caving days are over! And that is okay. But it is good to sometimes be underground. And apart from a brief training session, the last time I had been underground been some three months before. It was time to go again! We have postponed the trip by your week as everybody except two of us couldn't make it. Now we were due to have a trip of four.

When we had been discussing where to go, Miles had suggested some new ground in Cwmorthin. That had sounded good to me! And also to the others, so we went for it. I set off to pick up Lydia from Bangor. I was hoping to pick up both her and Amelia, who I still hadn't met, but only Lydia showed up. Hopefully, we'll get Amelia next time!

We met Miles in the car park. It was busy there! I only just managed to find the space for my little car. Then we got changed. Miles had come in a Land Rover, so he offered as a ride to the entrance. Luxury!

Lydia had not been in Cwmorthin, so we tried to give getting to our final destination a bit of a touristic spin. We walked past the freefall machine, which immediately piqued her interest. And she did necessary abseil. By the time you met again I suggested a coffee and cake break. I had had breakfast rather early, and I was already very hungry! Luckily the others were willing to comply.

We also came past the top of an incline. There Lydia saw a small hole and wanted to go in. Even Miles joined! Even though he really doesn't like tight spaces. And any space is tighter for him than for Lydia and me. But the views on the other side were amazing!

A view on the other side. Pic by Lydia

Finally we got to the end of the trodden path. We had to squeeze our way through a collapse. As far as Miles knew, only he and the bloke who had showed him this new discovery had been there since the collapse had happened. It was getting very exciting! And for me, it wasn't very challenging squeeze. Even Miles came through without issue.

When got through we revelled in the new terrain. Lydia and I explored some grotty little nooks and crannies, and I also requested an actual lunch break. I was hungry! And we hadn't even got to our goal.

Me in one of the grotty holes. Pic by Lydia

Lydia enjoying it too. The other grotty hole was too scary for photography.

After lunch, we finally went to where we were headed all along. Miles led us into a chamber lots of loose rocks on the floor. We didn't go all the way up; we went up until we got to a level where they were side passages visible in what looked like vertical walls. This was where we were headed! I had a veritable heart attack. Go there? And Miles had been there without any safety measures? I was bricking it just thinking about that. But Miles had brought a drill and accoutrements, so he started bolting a traverse. I explored to the top; maybe it went somewhere? It looked like there had been a roofing shaft but it was entirely choked. When I got back to the others Miles had made progress on the rigging. It was a bit of a trip down memory lane to be in a slate mine with him, and lots of drilling taking place. 

While he was busy I put one of my flasks under a drip so I would replenish some of my water supply. This trip was taking a bit longer than I had imagined it would! 

Bolting the side wall wasn't excessively scary. The back wall was. I was just blankly staring at Miles hoping nothing would go wrong. Lydia was singing songs. Luckily, nothing did go wrong, and after not too much time the entire traverse was safely bolted. So Lydia and I followed!

Miles working on the traverse

Firstly, Miles pointed out some beautiful graffiti. There were a lot of Christmas messages from 1904 on the wall! That was cool. Then he pointed at part of a passage of which he said the bloke who had shown him this part of the mine was scared to explore. I've never met this man, but his reputation is such that I struggle to imagine anything he would be scared of. And when I got there I saw the issue was. A tiny passage with lots of badly stacked deads above it. It looked decidedly unstable! But I couldn't resist. I pull on Bill's rocks out of the benefits to make it a bit bigger, and then carefully slid through. I ended up in a tiny space with a partial wall on the other side. I also clambered over that wall. I find myself in chamber again; or rather, teetering on a narrow ledge just outside that wall I had just clambered over. Lydia followed into the space, and she stuck her head over the partial wall, but she did not come out on the other side. She took some pictures and then we went back. Miles said the deads had moved... But we had got away unscathed.

Xmas graffiti
The scary passage; pic by Lydia

Then we went up into another chamber. We again went all the way to the end; this time with the three of us. We looked down into a gaping hole; this chamber had broken into another chamber. And on the other side we could see a passage; this was part of the regular areas of the mine. Even tourists went there!

Then we traced our footsteps back. It was late enough! And my desire for adventure was solidly sated. We went up via a slightly different part of the mine, to show Lydia some new terrain. And on the way back we checked if Miles had accidentally brought the key to the freefall machine. He hadn't! So we just went out. And it was about 5:30 then.

We saw some Go Below personnel we had also seen on the way up, so Miles brought them up to speed with what we had been doing. Then he offered them a lift down.

At the parking lot we said our goodbyes. It had been a good day! And when I got home I had a shower (because I was sweaty) and then devoured some food. I was hungry by then! And rightly so!

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