27th October 2018 - Callum Ewan
I have been working in Glasgow for the last few months which has meant that trips underground have become few and far between. Yvonne and I decided a few months ago to organise this trip for the end of October when I was back for a weekend and she was available.
Yvonne and Will were already at the Conwy Falls café above GoBelow’s base where, as ‘cavers/mine explorers’ we put a £20 deposit down for the keys. After a ‘light’ breakfast and Will expressing his concern about Yvonnes wayfinding skills, we headed to Tanygrisiau to begin our adventure!
The Cwmorthin slate mine was worked between 1810 and 1970, and is split into three main workings, the Cwmorthin old vane workings, which has been mostly destroyed by layer works, the Cwmorthin back vane workings, which is the area we explored, and the more recent Oakley workings, which are strictly off limits - They have even used skulls on the survey to tell you so.
Clothed and suitably dressed in assorted metalwork, we headed to the mine entrance which was relatively easy to find. The incline was interesting – very steep with a lot of the rails still in place, and a couple of old carts. We took a left which opened out in the top of a chamber – a traverse line was in place which took us around to the opposite wall where we abseiled down an 11m pitch.
From this pitch we continued to two tyroleans - between us we had one pully which we pulled back using fishing line which slowed us down slightly (I have since bought one myself!). From here we continued to the bottom of the incline where the passage becomes semi-submerged. A bar in the water and a chain to hold onto has been installed which makes passing this area nice and dry.
We reached ‘9 East’ chamber where we climbed to the top for another tyrolean – I skipped this one to have a quick look around the adjacent chambers. We crossed the bridge next to ‘9 East’ which I must admit, terrified me, and was not any better on the way back!
At this point we had hoped to continue to the caban further on – but we had misunderstood the levels on the survey we had and had to return over the bridge, after which we decided that the alternate route would take too long if we hoped to return to surface in time for our call out!
With this in mind, we continued up to Floor C and then B which had a number of exciting tyroleans and traverses between chambers! Our fishing line snapped on one of the tyroleans, luckily when someone was still on it.
The walk back to the car was short and cold, and I decided to keep my undersuit on for the return journey much to the amusement of the workers at the McDonalds I stopped at on the way home!
If you are going to visit Cwmorthin, make sure to take big carabiners as all of the traverse lines have rubber tubing over them which makes it very difficult to take your carabiners on/off! Also the ziplines and tyroleans require a pully, no steel crabs!
Below 1: At the entrance Below 2: At the entrance Below 3: A bridge of death Below 4: Main workings
Below 1: Another bridge Below 2: Successful trip