Report by Jules Barrett
Cavers: Jules Barrett (EPC), Bob Toogood (EPC), Dave Gledhill (EPC)
None of us had done the trip before but Sam Townsend had provided us with some good info on the route and tactics. We stayed at Eric Jones' Bunkhouse near Tremadog on the Friday evening. The bunkhouse is very spacious, being a barn but there's no heating so it you're going to stay there in January take a big sleeping bag or an extra duvet! On Saturday morning we headed into Porthmadog for breakfast at Jenny's Diner which is a bit like a North Wales version of the diner in 'Happy Days'. Drove up to the Cwm Croesor car park and got changed.
We all wore wetsuits and had an SRT kit each plus one inner tube, pump, buoyancy aid, pulley, 50m static rope, some krabs and 40m of thin cord between us. Followed a good track up the hill to the Croesor workings and went through the bars and into the adit entrance. A pleasant walk along led to a short scramble, traverse, scramble onto an incline which we followed upwards alongside a big ceramic pipe. At the top we found the top of the first abseil and descended into the huge chamber below. This is the one where a very large block fell out of the roof when someone shouted too loud so we kept the noise down in here! Crossed the chamber to a window on the far side where ropes are anchored to boulders. Plenty of rope protection on the rope around the boulders which was nice and we abseiled down into the next chamber. There's still a fair bit of rope rub on this abseil so go carefully! From here we walked down to the water in the bottom of the chamber to find a tyrolean rigged with wire rope which led to a short tunnel on the far side. Enjoyed a pleasant tyrolean traverse across to the tunnel on the far side. At the end of the tunnel is another area of water to be crossed; a half-inflated dinghy was moored there so rather than unpack our inner tube we tested the in-situ dinghy. Although it sat a little low in the water it did the job and saw us and kit safely across. A shiny suspension bridge lies in the water here which may have been removed by a roof fall. On the other side we had a look up a couple of side passages and then found the main drag which has rails in the floor and passes through a number of large chambers.
A bit of walking leads to the first old bridge which spans a greeny-blue pool and is excellent fun. There are good traverse lines alongside the bridge and there's plenty of the bridge left. A short walk leads to the second old bridge which is also over a pool. Here the whole bridge has gone except for the support in the middle. However, there's another wire rope tyrolean in-situ so we zipped across. Apparently years ago this section was negotiated by a tricky traverse around the pool below. Next we reached the so-called 'Bridge of Death'. A couple of traverse lines protect the wobbly walk out along truck rails which only go half way across. The second half of the span is accomplished with another wire rope tyrolean. Once at the other side it's a short walk to arrive at a point in the wall overlooking the 'Chamber of Horrors' - a wide, deep pool that needs to be crossed. Looking down we could see a perfectly good dinghy sitting right at the bottom of the abseil rope. One at a time we abseiled into the dinghy, paddled across to the other side, got out and sent the dinghy back with the return loop. All worked very well and eventually we were stood at the bottom of the fixed rope that leads up into Rhosydd.
Here we prussiked up the rope, removed SRT kits and then continued along through a gap with the remains of some reinforced concrete. Heading straight on we arrived at a dead-end. Retraced steps back to find a slope leading up. Followed that to climb over a low wall and arrive at the bottom of a large incline. At the bottom of the incline is a huge sledge which would have been used to move trucks up and down. Dave had a look up the incline at a crashed counterweight truck complete with iron bricks before we continued east through more chambers to reach a large chamber where we could see daylight coming in through a slope at the top. This was the West Twll and a short scramble out led to the floor of the quarry. It was still light so we chose the easiest line and climbed out of the quarry and onto the hillside above. Once on the hillside we walked back to the old Croesor mine buildings where we had entered and then on down to the car.
The Croesor-Rhosydd Through Trip is a tremendous and memorable day out. The whole thing is great fun and some of the underground scenery is superb. It's important to go well-equipped and to be able to manage a retreat back to the Croesor entrance if necessary. We were underground for four hours.