Croesor Rhosydd is a mining trip near Ffestiniog in North Wales which is also quite appropriately dubbed ‘the death mine’. It is a through trip of 2 slate mines that where connected to help settle dispute a surveying argument between the 2 mines. The mines shut in 1930 and 1970, but the through trip has remained possible and a popular sporting mining trip in North Wales.
The through trip is not for the faint hearted, not only are you underground and walking through tunnels mined out 100+ years ago from extremely brittle and friable slate, you also have a set of obstacles to cross to reach the exit. These include zip wires, tyroleans, ladder walks, via ferrata style climbs, abseils and a canoe across a large lake!
You start by walking the hour in past the lake and up past the old miners houses before dipping down towards the entrance of Croesor. The mine starts with an easy angled tunnel that leads you deeper underground before walking up next to an old incline and climbing a short roped section. This leads you to the first abseil, an 80 foot free hanging abseil on old fixed rope from bolts, this leads down into a huge impressive chamber, with large amounts of fallen rock on the floor reminding you just how temporary these mines can be.
After more walking, scrambling and another abseil the real fun begins. You scramble down to the waters edge, where you can see a wire cable suspended above a perfect teal lake diving down as far as the eye can see, and a piece of blue tat hanging in the water. We pulled on the tat until it tightened then out of the darkness a rickety pulley comes across on the wire. You attach and jump off the edge hoping that the slack in the wire will hold you above the water. After you come to a stop in the middle of the lake it’s necessary to pull yourself the remainder of the way until you can pull yourself out onto a ledge and another tunnel!
A quick walk and another teal lake appears, this time spanned by an old ladder suspended by wire and bolts, as you teeter your way across the ladder unfortunately doesn’t stop your feet dipping into the icy water!
The next obstacle is an old bridge, that used to be clad in train tracks for the miners trolleys. Nowadays the 150 year old timber has seen better days, though still intact is rotten and flaky. You traverse the bridge suspended above another lake, but thankfully clipped onto a safety wire. The next bridge you reach is wonderfully dubbed ‘the bridge of death’ and for good reason. Although there is a safety wire to clip, being above a bottomless pit filled with icy water with the prospect of effectively jumping across onto an extremely wobbly bit of timber didn’t particularly fill anyone in our group with joy. The bridge seems to have gone through many states with new pieces being added to make the traverse easier, when we arrived there was nothing extra (August 2014). There is one piece of the 2 timber train track left, and this one piece is a half piece. It spans maybe 2/3’s of the cavern, which means the ledge you’re on is a good 3/4 foot from the start of the rotten timber. After an interesting step onto and incredibly wobbly and rotten timber and pulling yourself onto it, the walk across is actually not too bad!
The next is the chamber of horror’s. You come to an edge, where a blue piece of tat is suspended from the bolts and rope work, as you pull on the rope a canoe comes from around the corner out of the darkness (think lord of the rings with Gollum), after pulling it in as far as you can you have to awkwardly abseil down into the canoe. We filled it with 3 people and did 2 trips, you pull the canoe across the water by the tat until you reach the end, where you can escape the chamber of horrors by prussiking up a fixed line and into the next tunnel. Hopefully your lines won’t get tangled or jammed as this can result in someone having to take a very cold swim!
After more tunnel you come to the connecting tunnel between the 2 mines, which was built after an argument between the 2 mines erupted over each mine stealing the other ones slate, so the shaft was built to help surveying. As it turned out, both mines had been stealing slate from the others area. The connecting tunnel was kept, as it aided air flow into both mines, but it did open a problem of miners escaping at the start of the day out of the other mine and returning at the end having not worked a minute! A metal bar system was installed to keep the airflow but restrict the movement of people!
After a shorter time in Rhosydd you pick up a stream which after deepening to knee depth shoots you out into the daylight. All in all it took us 3 hours underground in a group of 5…and although some of the mine is obviously moving and breaking and falling in, and the condition of some of the equipment in the mine you defiantly need to have caution! It is a fantastic trip that I’m happy I’ve ticked off the bucket list!
Credit for all the pictures (barr one) goes to Jen Roberts who accompanied us on the trip and took the beauties!