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Saturday May 23rd 2009

Croesor Rhosydd (mine)

Gary, Matt E, Ade, Laura, Tash

Gary wrote...

I would defiantly say that Crosoer Rhosydd mine is the most fun you can have underground! It's like the ultimate cavers adventure playground! Crosoer Rhosydd has some of the most fun (and at times terrifying) wire traverses I've ever seen.

After a long walk up the hill overlooking spectacular landscape, we were greeted with the prominent winding house and steep track-way leading down into the bottom of the valley. The large flat plateau around the winding house is littered with old mining history – twisted wire and buildings in various states of decay. At one end of a row of these structures is the remains of a water wheel, and just behind is the entrance to Crosoer mine. The actual entrance has long since been closed off behind a steel door and tons of rubble, however the way in is through a grill on the left.

The classic adit entrance is fairly un-inspiring until, after a short walk, we entered a large area with several ways on and a very deep hole, filled with water in the middle of the floor. To the right leads to probably one of the eeriest places I ever been in; a huge excavated hall towering up for at lease thirty meters, with slanted rock lined with blast holes. Below, the floor descends downwards and is filled up to the floor of the entrance with water – deathly still and totally silent. It’s possible to drop a rock into the water and watch as it drops for some distance until disappears out of site in the clear blue water.

Leaving the flooded hall, the way on was up a slope following a large pipe, passing a window overlooking the first hall from a higher level. The slope ends at the head of pitch overlooking another huge hall, again totally silent. Matt, Ade, Laura and Tash went down the fixed rope one by one while I set up my camera to catch the descent. I followed last and dropped into one of the biggest caverns I’ve ever been in, stroon with huge, bus sized boulders. We had been told that rocks fall out of the roof regularly and its best not to make much noise (not sure how true that is!) Not wishing to tempt fate, we preceded in silence (unusual for cavers) through the bouders to another, longer descent was made by some rope of dubious vintage running via some home made rope protectors over a ledge and down to a smaller chamber.

Next came the first of many wire zip lines. Ade had purchased a steel pulley especially for the occasion (defiantly a must as the wire will shred the cheaper alloy ones). After some debate about how best to cross the wire over the deep water we decided to just clip in and jump! Thankfully we’d remembered some cord to pull the pulley back after each trip over. After taking some photos, I clipped on and leaped off the ledge. The wire is quite steep and I didn’t expect how fast I’d be moving. The wall on the other side appeared out of the darkness so I just stuck out my legs, closed my eyes and braced for impact. The resulting ungraceful thud shuck my bones but wasn’t too bad - just make sure you’re not going head first!

After everyone made it across, it was time to blow up our £5.99 inflatable dingy. It turned out that we didn’t really need it as there were several already there, all be it half were flat or on the bottom. As Tash had here head inside our dingy puffing away as hard as possible, we heard voices from behind - another group of cavers were catching us up. We picked up the pace and made the relatively short voyage over the lake and the dingy was deflated – I think bringing ores (much to the entertainment of the other group) was rather over the top.

Onwards through more large mine passage to the next zip wire and one of several crossings over flooded passages below. As we crossed each of the similar obstacles, the remains of the bridges were getting increasingly less and less until the last one – “the bridge of death” – where only a bendy old iron rail was there for the foothold. To add to this, the zip wire was re-belayed half way which made for some interesting discussion on how to get the pulley back for the next person. In the end we managed to cobble together and improvised system using some steel krabs – a bit crude but it got us all over (not helped by the comments from the group behind us, waiting to cross).

Out came the dingy again. This time we had to abseil into it! Ade took the first journey and I went next. The way on is to cross a large stretch of flooded passage – easily twenty meters wide and thirty meters long. Once again, ores weren’t required as an ingenious hauling pulley system had been erected to pull our rather unstable vessel along and then return it for the next passenger. This area we named the boat graveyard as it was littered with all manor of rather un-seaworthy dingys – some even could be seen on the bottom or caught on rocks. We utilised one of the other dingys for Matt, Laura and Tash to make the crossing quicker.

After debarking and making the short climb up to the continuation of the level, it was easy going. We went through the connection with Rhosydd mine and passed some rather impressive workings to the climb up to the exit.

The exit was far bigger than I expected – a huge hole at the head of a steep boulder slope with sunlight streaming in – quite spectacular. Getting out of the mine was easy, however getting out of the shake hole was rather more of a challenge! After Laura made a rather dangerous attempt at climbing up a wet slope, we all made it up to the moor top to find we were in thick fog. Time for the GPS we thought, and a good thing we had it too. We found our way back to Crosoer without too much difficulty (apart from Laura who fell up to her middle in a bog) and made our way down, below the fog to the village.

An excellent and very satisfying through trip, making a nice change from our usual dales caving. I would defiantly recommend visiting this mine soon as it probably won’t be passable for much longer due to the sate of decay of some of the features.

24th August 2009

Gary Douthwaite

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Tash wrote...

<i>The first official club weekend away in an unbelievably sunny Wales. No, you didn’t read that wrongly – it was a sunny weekend in Wales!</i>

The highlight for me was the Crosoer Rhosydd through trip . A colleague had recommended this trip to me a year or so back and I’ve been itching to do it since. How could you not get excited about a trip which needs a boat?! It was a fair drive from our campsite in Langollen but worth it.

We parked up in the village and got some very odd looks as we sorted rope, boats, oars and pulleys as families and walkers donned their walking boots for a pleasant summer stroll.

A slog up an old mine track (if only the railway was still running) led us to the old mine workings and the start of Cresoer Mine. This has been empty since the 70s but already dereliction was setting in – in fact the entire mine is in an active state of collapse.

The first section was really eerie, as we walked passed the deserted office and flooded chambers. The water is completely still and incredibly dark. As we gained height and viewed the chambers from the upper levels, you began to appreciate the scale of the mine – my puny light barely reached the walls.

A short abseil on in situ gear led us into chamber one, which was awe inspiring in its scale. However the scale of the chamber also meant the roof was struggling to be supported and there were house sized boulders strewn over the floor – not a place to hang around! We had also read that simply shouting was enough to trigger collapse here so we tiptoed across (as delicately as you can across loose boulders!) in silence. I’m sure the shouting theory has got to be myth but I sure as hell didn’t want to be the one to disprove it! I’ve never caved in silence before and it’s very very odd, and what was more disconcerting was that I still had the remnants of a cold and desperately need to cough!

Thankfully we all made it through intact and after another abseil on in situ gear (and rope protectors in a variety of states!) we arrived at the first water crossing – Tyrolean time! It was then time to unfurl the mighty Stingray – our trusty vessel for the second water crossing (Stingray is a dingy of Matt’s bought 10 years ago and never used). It was short crossing, but stingray performed impeccably and no one got wet.

A series of bridges were next, although that term should be used fairly loosely! I crossed the rotting wooden beam first. It should have been easy: I was sober, I generally have no problems walking in straight line, but there is something fairly unnerving about walking across a plank over a large drop into very deep water and not wanting to endure the humiliation of falling.

The much hyped “Bridge of Death” turned out to be more of a tightrope / zip wire of death. With some cunning systems involving string to share steel krabs / pulleys (despite having about 50 pulleys between us we were trying to conserve our gear from the aluminium eating steel cable - take the cavers out of Yorkshire and all that…!) we crossed successfully. Short people beware though, unless you are happy pulling up on rusty struts then you will get strung up!

The final water crossing was my highlight, you had to abseil into the dingy!! Stingray, along with another in situ vessel, again served us well (although there was a distinct sound of hissing) and it was a short distance to the Rhosydd mine connection and the daylight streaming in down the huge boulder slope that marked our exit.

In true Wales fashion, the cloud had set in and visibility was poor on our exit. We were very glad of our GPS in finding our way back to the miner’s path (although this didn’t stop Laura disappearing waist deep into bog at one point!).

All in all this was a really fun trip and I particularly enjoyed the novelty of the water crossings. Also glad we did it before everything disintegrates or the mines collapse completely!

For me the rest of weekend was spent working / reading / sunbathing / wandering – it seemed rude not to enjoy the glorious weather. The rest of the group enjoyed a trip down ODB on Sunday and showed off their digging skills! So an excellent weekend: good trips, nice campsite and stunning scenery.

14th June 2009

Tash Durham

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Laura wrote...

This was a fantastic trip, definitely one of my favourite this year. I woudl definitely reccomend it to anybody visiting the area. The mine is like an underground adventure playground with zip-wires, lakes to cross in an inflatable boat and the bridge of death. We followed the description written by Richard Gover from YUCPC a couple of months previously, which was spot-on. The mine is definitely in an active state of collapse; some parts of the bridge of death has collapsed since Gover's trip! Definitely take a map and compass or GPS for the return journey overland as it isn't simple to find the way back and I ended up waist-deep in a bog!

23rd September 2009

Laura Bennett

48 photos by Gary...

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Saturday April 25th 2009

Birks Fell Cave

Gary, Matt E

Matt E wrote...

After an early start we headed up the hill paying a visit on Redmire Farm to present the permit, who were very nice people indeed We headed up towards the cave, initially failing to find it as we headed too far south on the hillside. For future reference you head up the path and where the path bears left, turn off the path and follow the right hand wall directly up a steep slope to the top (don't follow the path all the way to the top). Continue ahead into the field, bear slightly further to the right and you can't miss it in around 100m!

With superb weather and dry conditions we were expecting a nice dry trip. This wasn't to be however and the entrance involved a good couple of minutes crawling through a canal followed by some narrower and more awkward sections to eventually reach the first pitch. We rigged this and descended, although one of our group free climbed a rift just beyond the pitch (this looked a bit too exciting for me!). From here on the going became much easier indeed, and we made quick progress through the remainder of the cave, enjoying a couple of nice avens, and an exciting mix of free-climbs, traverses, stomping and canal-wading, with some amazing stream passages and well decorated sections. After the sharp bend where the cave turns sharply, the character changes to very shaley and slippery black rock. We soon reached Shale pitch. Gary started to rig this but a large amount of water was going down, and he was unable to find a rebelay point on the ledge several metres down. As we were all getting quite cold, the decision was made that we'd all had a rather excellent trip and we turned around without completing the descent (apparantly it's just a series of short canals and then a sump beyond there anyway so we're happy that we saw all the best bits of the cave).

Birks Fell goes down as one of my all time favourite trips, with something for everyone. You can't possibly get bored with the variety of climbs, traverses, stomping and crawling, and the trip has kept me smiling for several days afterwards. For future trips I don't think I'd bother taking rope for Shale and Slimy Slit pitch, as a trip to the top of Shale is by itself and excellent trip, and not having the tacklesacks to worry about would make it all the more enjoyable.

We got our to blazing sunshine and a stunning view across the valley (and then the pub in Kettlewell) which couldn't have been a better way to end an excellent days caving.

1st June 2009

Matt Ewles

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Saturday February 28th 2009

Growling Hole (First YCC trip!)

Gary, Matt E, Ade, Laura

Matt E wrote...

After a lavish breakfast at Bernies with some of the YUCPCers doign Vespers that day, we headed to Kingsdale and commenced the unpleasant walk up the hill to the top. After waving goodbye to the Vespers team we made our way to Growling, which is approximately 100m further on. The entrance didn't look inviting! A narrow slot dropped into the 4-5m entrance pitch which was rigged following much faff from a large slab. A squirming descent was made by Gary, and then by me. Gary by this time was at floor level looking uninspired by the way ahead, a low and apparantly very wet crawl. I think he thought it looked almost sumped (sometimes too much light from our Scurions can be misleading!). I went in and pushed my way down the flat out passage and into the water. It wasn't as bad as it looked. A second crossrift was soon reached, and a little bit more flat out wiggling in a few inches of water soon reaches a more pleasant crawling section, with about 8 inches deep water in (enough for full body wetness!). This wet wallow continued for some distance, eventually ending where the passage constricted horizontally and rose up out of the water. I shouted back to Gary that it was OK and that he could come though. Laura also followed, however we were unable to tempt Ade into the water. Certainly given the potential for rain above ground, proceeding too far into this cave today would not have been sensible.

After some time attempting lengthy communications along the echoy passage, I pressed onwards, through an awkward shaped sideways bit of passage (tacklesacs troublesome!) to a more pleasantly sized crawl, eventually reaching waterfall chamber, where loads of water poured into a stooping height chamber. Gary and I stopped to take some photos and we then made our retreat. Despite being a little chilly from the earlier waiting around, a neofleece is optimum for this cave as long as you keep moving. I'd like to take a return trip in drier and more settled conditions.

2nd June 2009

Matt Ewles

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7 photos by Gary...

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