23 March 2023

Very vertical mine trip

After a successful trip with Sharon in a mine in the east, and with Lydia and Toby in a mine in the south, there was enthusiasm for more. And it came together well. Lydia, Sharon and I were all available one Sunday, Lydia was keen on doing a very vertical trip near Llanberis, and Sharon has enough equipment to make the trip happen. Initially, Kate would join too, but something got in the way. Miles wasn't available.

I had been a bit worried about my throat for a while. It never really felt good! It didn't feel like an oncoming cold or tonsillitis or anything, but I didn't feel good either. And on that morning, it felt marginally worse than before. I would have to be careful!

I gathered my stuff and picked up Lydia from Bangor. Together we drove to Llanberis, where we met Sharon. She had cleverly put all the kit we needed in three bags, so we could share in the load. And I am a thirsty person, and during the first half of the day I am also quite a hungry person, so I also had a bag with supplies. Luckily, I have a rather big bag, so I could put my share of the equipment and all my food (and Lydia’s) and drink in that bag. It was quite heavy, but it wasn't far to the entrance!

View from the entrance 

We got in, and quickly found the first pitch. Sharon rigged it like the wind. It was a bit wet, but not too bad. And we got to the second pitch pretty much immediately. At the bottom of that there was a bit of horizontal exploration. It’s a pretty mine! And a metal mine, so nice staining here and there. 

What I saw near the bottom of the second pitch 

What they saw (pic by Sharon)

The next pitch also lead to a level where some exploration was possible. And I was considering my options! The next pitch was allegedly quite wet, and I was feeling my throat. I didn’t think getting soaking wet and cold would improve it. I did discuss this. Sharon went down first. She said it was just like rain. Not too bad. 

Lovely bucket

Lydia admiring some blue staining

Sharon looking at a hole in the floor

Lydia in a level with green staining on the floor

Lydia went second. And then I followed. It was very wet! And when I touched down there was nowhere we wanted to go. The level had quite high water. We didn’t fancy going into it. But that meant we were all three huddling on a very rainy square meter. Why not shout up coming down wasn’t worth it? Coming up would be wetter. 

Lydia went up first. I was wearing a thicker furry suit! It felt like it took her an hour. Then I went up. It was so wet! And a 34m pitch is hard work on the best of days. At the top I knew my voice had gone. I asked Lydia to shout “rope free” for me. And told her to move up the next pitch. That would speed things up! 

We made our way out. One pitch was a pain as I was the first up. The rope didn’t want to feed through my chest jammer! And then you have to manually pull it through. That’s really hard work. But that situation sorted itself. I wanted to be in between the others; then they could do the comms. They had voices! And a mine with falling water is a noisy environment. The message only partially came through, though; Lydia shouted at me several times from a distance to ask me how I was doing. She had good intentions, but was clearly not thinking that one through. 

When we got to the top and Sharon was de-rigging I figured I’d just go back to the car. I had by far the heaviest bag anyway! They could carry the rest. And when I got out the wind had picked up. I was soaked to the bone so I was feeling the cold! I was so glad to be able to slip into something dry. 

Soon the others appeared too, and we all changed into something dry. Me in silence, obviously. This was not how I had wanted the trip to end! I was seriously regretting that last pitch. But one learns. I knew I had to get home and take it very easy for the rest of the day. But it is a nice mine! Where you can have a lot more fun with ropes than in your average Welsh mine. I would like to go back there one day in a dry spell, when the pitches are not so wet, and that lower level is a bit more inviting. I could imagine the others feel similar! 

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