Here is a very incomplete list of some of the trips the Eldon have been up to recently.
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- Written by RobEavis
- Hits: 1844
Report by Mike Annesley
Pete Stockton (non EPC)
Croesor and Rhosydd are old slate mines, situated northeast of the tiny village of Croesor, which in turn is about eight miles from Tremadog. They are both set high up on the slopes of the Moelwyns near Bwlch Cwmorthin, a high pass separating the valleys of Cwm Croesor and Cwm Orthin. Both mine enterances are at an altitude of approximately fifteen hundred feet, and set in beautiful, rugged mountain scenery, albeit in one of the highest areas of rainfall in Wales.
Although not the biggest of the Welsh slate mines, these certainly aren't tiddlers either - the spoil tip at Rhosydd alone contains over two million tons of rock. Croesor mine is almost all underground, was worked from the late nineteenth century until nineteen-thirty, and consists of seven levels, the bottom three of which are flooded.
Rhosydd is the largest underground slate mine in Wales bar the big Ffestiniog mines. It consists of one hundred and seventy chambers on fourteen levels, but again, all levels below level nine are now flooded. Work commenced in eighteen-forty, and, like Croesor, ended in nineteen-thirty, due to the continuing decline of the Welsh slate industry.
There have been several large collapses in Rhosydd over the years, but the through trip between the mines is still possible. The link between the two was originally made to settle a dispute regarding their respective boundaries, and we can only speculate that it was not sealed off again in order to provide an alternative exit from either mine in case that ever became necessary. There is actually the remains of a wall across the route of the connection at the Rhosydd end, but it's hard to tell when it was built and for what purpose.
Ok, history lesson over - but that should give you some idea of the creaky old age of the place, which you'll be desperately trying to forget as you tip-toe beneath the poised blocks above your head.
Sun 2nd June, 2002
Following the previous evening's sunny bouldering session at Utopia in the Pass, it almost seemed odd to be going underground, but the weather wasn't looking too hot, and anyway, this was the real objective of the weekend and so, after a lardy breakfast in Eric's café we started to pack the tackle bags..and pack, and pack... we took a lot of kit. In fact, we probably took too much kit, but as we couldn't contact anyone who'd done the trip recently, we thought it better to be over-prepared rather than to travel light, and were carrying many extras such as a bolt-kit, a small climbing rack and some dynamic rope.
There were four of us - Mike, Sam, Jim, and John. Sel & Mel were not enthused about the trip and so were going to hook up with us back at the campsite later on...much later on as it happened. We loaded the car and set off to the mines, stopping off on the way to pick up Pete, the fifth member of our party, who lived nearby and was the only one of us who had done the trip before, back in nineteen ninety-four.
Sam drove the poor, overloaded car as far up Cwm Croesor as he could, and we stumbled out and started off uphill on the long walk in, with Jim setting a brutal pace right from the off.
Soon, the inevitable rain started, and by the time we arrived at the mine my clothes were soaked from the inside by sweat, and from the outside by drizzle. The walk in was longer than I expected, and took about an hour, although it seemed worse than it really was due to the heavy bags and the fact that I was not yet fully awake.
We got changed in the rain under the bemused gaze of a bunch of cagouled walkers, who seemed puzzled by our desire to go through the mountain, rather than up it. They didn't seem to be past a bit of voyeurism though, and asked if Sam "would get changed like that in front of them again, as they missed it properly the first time..." Then out of the blue appeared three blokes with helmets glancing knowingly at our tackle-bags - it turns out they'd been around to Rhosydd, to look at the other end of the trip, but were stopped at a big lake...my anticipation grew.
The entrance adit was gained by squeezing through a gap in the bars - we all clambered in, glad to be out of the rain, and stashed our now wet clothes just inside. Lamps on, and the super-torch was unleashed. It shone away down the half kilometre entrance passage; an eerie sight as there was still blackness beckoning, even beyond the range of the considerable beam of the super-torch.
We made quick progress down the long adit, passing small roof breakdowns, flooded sections, and a strange old brick room branching off from one side of the tunnel, which was apparently where a certain major chemical company used to store their explosives - nothing left there now though, unfortunately.
We reached the end of the tunnel with no obvious way on - to the right was a short tunnel leading to a huge water-filled chamber. All of the chambers in this place turned out to be vast; although most of them not very wide, they are high and very long, with parallel roofs and floors, inclined at about thirty degrees to the horizontal. Since the mine is flooded below the level of the entrance adit, the particular chambers here had deep water for a floor, and although they have been crossed (guide line still in place), this was off our chosen route, so we didn't investigate any further than shouting into them to hear the gloomy and boomy echos bounce back at us. We stopped this after we'd seen the state of the ceilings - the less provocation aimed at those pointy, shed-sized blocks the better.
The way on was now up an old incline to the site of the old furnace. This was an easy scramble up, following a huge old clay flue pipe on the floor of the passage until another junction was reached. To the right is a high-level window into the same flooded chambers just mentioned, and to the left was our way on, or rather down, via an abseil into another vast chamber.
There was some old fixed rope in place, but this didn't look so hot, so the triple-bolt belay was re-rigged with an old static rope we'd brought along for this very purpose. The abseil was only about seventy feet, but I found it quite worrying due to the scale of the chamber we were lowering into, the rub-points over slate edges, and the big loose flakes on the way down. I abbed at a snails-pace to prevent rope-bounce, but this was really not necessary as I later noticed on the second abseil that the rub points had mostly been polished down by the passage of other parties.
At the bottom, we found ourselves in a another huge room, the floor (and ceiling) of which consisted of large, sharp, loose blocks. We picked our way across the chamber to a vague window in the other side, to find the next abseil point. This time, there were no bolt belays, but just ropes belayed around boulders with rope-protectors for the sharp edges of the blocks. Again, the existing rope was junked in place of one of ours, and we tentatively made our way down into yes, you've guessed it, another huge space. I was starting to feel a bit more at home in the place now, but still hadn't got over the size of everything which was way beyond the scale of most things I've come across during our usual forays underground.
The old route from this chamber to the next was a hard to find squeeze down through boulders in the floor, which dropped into a tunnel and from there into the next chamber.
A few years previously, there had been a roof collapse, and this way on was now completely blocked. Luckily, at the bottom of the chamber there was another window, the only problem being the fact that to get over to it was going to mean somehow crossing the water-filled bottom section of the chamber.
In such a gloomy and intimidating place as this old mine, it was a revelation to find that the lake was actually quite beautiful; the water was deep, but crystal clear and it sparkled emerald green under our lights.
In order to cross the wet bits, we'd brought along two front wheel inner tubes, kindly donated by helpful farmer back in Derbyshire, which were then tied into the middle of a long piece of baling twine so that they could easily be pulled to and fro across the lakes. As we put the amateur looking kit together and pumped away at the tyres, we giggled like fools at the strangeness of the situation. The place was exhilarating, oppressive and impressive at the same time.
Sam was first off to test the tyres, and all was going swimmingly until he neared the 'far shore' and the twine became tangled - he was now in full-on paddling mode and wasn't stopping, driven on by the cold and the thoughts of that deep water below. Luckily, soon the tangle was sorted and he clambered out on the other side, an easy scramble up into another tunnel.
After ferrying across the tackle bags, and then ourselves, we discovered that the tunnel was only about ten feet long and led straight to another lake. The same tactics were used to cross this one, the only difference being that we had to lower ourselves down an old bit of chain to get into the water (this might be tricky if you ever need to reverse this bit, so check the state of the chain on your way through). By the time we'd all crossed, I was freezing - that water is cold, and the mine draughts hard in places. I danced about on the crunchy slate floor - feeling foolish, but keeping toastie.
We took a moment to look about at our surroundings, once more unleashing the super-torch. Old, high-level passages were spotted, and in one place a rusty old ladder about 80ft high was dangling temptingly down into the chamber. Well, not that temptingly really, one step on it would probably bring it down on your head, along with whatever it was attached to - we'll leave that one for the moment, thanks.
So, onwards we went through big, echoey chambers along old cart tracks, with rails still in-situ in many places, until we arrived at the first old bridge. The route continues at a window on the other side of the chamber, the floor of which is a lake with vertical sides, twenty feet below. The bridges are simple - at the halfway point, old, rusted metal beams hang from the roof, each holding one end of a timber cross-member in place, and the bridge is simply laid across this support to reach each side of the chamber.
This first one's not too bad, at least the two main beams are in reasonable nick, but I've heard of someone who had to be cave-rescued from here when they fell through the old planks in the middle of the walkway, and couldn't get back off their rope, so the whole thing still needs to be treated with respect. Anyway, a rope was rigged in addition to the existing handlines so that we could haul the heaviest bags across, it would be poor to end up in the water below wearing a heavy tackle bag. The lake below was a horrible dank pond with no easy way out, so we carefully tiptoed across the slimy beam across to the next bit of solid passage.
After a short distance, an identical room to the first one appeared, but the bridge here had completely collapsed into the water. Old explorers were forced to make a traverse around the chamber, following a small ledge to a tiny beach, then swinging back across old fixed-ropes to gain the window at the other side of the room. Luckily, some enterprising folks had rigged a tyrolean cable straight across the void making it easy work to just zip across on a pulley...
...and then came the third and final 'bridge' crossing. The state of this bridge is appalling - two bendy old rails, just resting on rotten wood and unsecured at each end, span the gap to the support in the middle of the room. Although there are fixed lines here, it's pretty scary shuffling across these rails, especially when they're flexing alarmingly, and you realise that most of the fixed ropes are attached to the centre support. The support beam rocks gently to and fro, and this is where I was trying hard to forget about the age of the rusty supports driven into the roof, and holding everything up. The pool underneath is green and gloomy, and full of old bits of bridge, and other crap - most uninspiring to say the least.
From the centre support, an eight mill bolt in the roof supports another little tyrolean wire, so the second half of the crossing is fine, and certainly better than the original way on which was to 'a cheval' across a rotting beam of wood full of sharp, rusty nails. People have fallen into the water from this beam, and I'm sure glad this didn't happen to any of our party. Once across this obstacle, I knew the main difficulties were over and despite enjoying myself intensely, I was freezing again and was looking forward to the way out.
One last obstacle remained, the third and final lake crossing. This last lake is much wider and deeper than the others, and there is a forty-foot drop just to get to the water. As we were starting to get the tyres rigged up again, somebody pulled on the long bit of twine attached to the abseil point and...across the water came a dinghy, fully inflated and looking far more inviting than our little tyres. There was much rejoicing at this point, as we knew we wouldn't have to get wet again. It was unforgettable as I dropped off the rope into the dinghy and the others pulled me across the lake. I just lay on my back and watched the huge cavern roof glide silently by above my head.
A quick climb up a fixed rope at the other side of the lake and we had reached the end of the trip - we were now in Rhosydd mine and in celebration of this fact, previous parties had built a bizarre 'shrine' to the crossing. Ok, really this was in fact a heap of junk, but it was really funny to find it there, with such things as a badminton racket, a coffee machine, a stylish (!) old red handbag, etc. We had nothing left but a nutrigrain bar, so that was added to the pile.
Things aren't quite over here however, as you still have to get out of Rhosydd, but fortunately this was fine and, after a few wrong turns through the now much smaller tunnels, passing some interesting old mining artifacts, we suddenly arrived in a vast cavern where daylight could be seen shining in from above. The exit chambers were truly breathtaking, and with the light pouring in ahead, the climb out from the darkness was amazing.
Once out, we paused for a team photo and then proceeded to get completely disorientated in the mist on the mountain top. Sam's compass, although it looked like something you'd get out of a Christmas cracker, saved the day and we picked our way back around and down the hill to the Croesor entrance.
By the time we'd got back at the car, our "three to five" hour trip had stretched into over eight hours, and I for one was very happy to get back to Eric's campsite and a chance to get back into normal clothes and to see Selina, who was a bit worried by the fact that we'd got to within half an hour of our cave rescue callout time.
So, all in all a great trip, very different to anything I've done before and I'd definitely do it again...but maybe not just quite yet.
As an aside, if you knew the two fixed ropes at the start were in good nick, then maybe the best, and quickest way to do it would be by wearing wetsuits, carrying buoyant waterproof bags, and just swimming the lakes.
Further pictures from our trip:
Pete’s great article:
Other accounts of the trip:
Some older and scarier pics:
- Written by RobEavis
- Hits: 1916
Report by Mike Salt
Cavers: Steve (Stik) Rider (EPC), Jase Rider (EPC), Steve Fallows, Sam Townsend (EPC-aspirant), Mike Salt (EPC), John Taylor (EPC), Nige Strong (EPC)
I’ll start this one with an apology, the newsletter was supposed to be out before this event took place - it wasn’t! However, I did phone every member of the Eldon prior to the workshop to give reasonable notice! Anyway, the pictures on the coversheet of the newsletter are of a day, which went something like this. We met in the Wardlow mires café at 10.00. The day was organised by the clubs’ training officer, Mick Star who had arranged for us to do some S.R.T. Rescue with Nigel Atkins, followed by some emergency first aid.
A full English was enjoyed by all before we went down to the Pindale Center for the first of the day’s exercises. Nigel kicked off with a thorough chat about our personal equipment and much fun was had when looking at examples of each other’s S.R.T. Rigs. Which were, in some cases, caked in shite and in need of a damn good clean! "Oh well" I thought, at least it shows that the Eldon are active cavers (or lazy People who can’t be bothered to clean their S.R.T Gear!). It was around this time when a pale looking Stik turned up looking a bit worse for ware having just cleared up after his house party which he held on the previous night.
What then followed was a good couple of hours going up and down ropes learning simple and efficient ways of getting casualties or lazy people off pitches. One particularly memorable moment occurred when I was on the rope and had to pretend to be knackered (this bit came natural to me and anyone would have thought that I’d practiced it a thousand times). John Taylor was the guy to be my savior as he heroically reverse prussiked "Rigged me up" and then started to assist me in getting up the rope. I can honestly say that Nigel had taught us well because as John assisted me, I found myself flying up the rope, to confront a big arsehole. A great amount was learnt and the general consensus was that we knew how to do the rescues, but Nigel’s influence showed us techniques that were easier and more practical. Three o’clock came and it was Mick’s turn - to the pub!
Sat in the Anchor, Mick went on to do a very thorough talk regarding casualties within caves. The following couple of hours covered a large range of scenarios where accidents could occur within caves these were tied in with real life incidents which bought a certain seriousness to the subject. The colour of Stik deteriorated gradually as the discussion became more detailed. The poor lad was a bit squeamish but stuck it out for fear having the piss taken out of him, but we wouldn’t do that would we? We all left that day being a lot more aware of the importance of the issues that were covered. I hope that none of us ever have to put into practice what we have learnt.
A very big thanks goes out to Mick and Nigel from the whole of the group. I look forward to the next training event. Anyone interested in taking part in the next workshop or even able to offer assistance, then please contact Mick.
- Written by RobEavis
- Hits: 1671
Braida Stomp Weekend - 24/11/2001
Report by Jason Rider
The weekend began at 10:30am in Inglesport Café where Paz, Rob, Stik and Jase decided to take a trip down Tatham Wife Hole. Having parked at the layby just up from White Scar Showcave we made our way up the scars to the limestone pavement – thick fog making the going difficult. Once on top, it took about half an hour to find the entrance due to the conditions. We all breathed a sigh of relief when Paz’s voice rang out throught the mists that he had found the entrance. Tatham Wife is an interesting cave that has developed in places on an inclined fault line. Though there are only four main pitches, it is a surprisingly deep cave at 155 metres. There was plenty of water in the streamway which made for an exciting trip - much fun was had at the duck between the third and fourth pitches when we were unable to attain the dry bypass.
In the meantime, Nigel and Steve had arrived, having been delayed, but were unable to find the cave due to the conditions. We met them back at the cars later in the afternoon where Bob Toogood also appeared. We had tea at Bernies before making for the Marton Arms for a couple of pints before the stomp.
The stomp was at the Dalesbridge Centre at Austwick which is an outdoor activity centre. The room wasn’t very big and it was packed. It was a classic stomp with the band, The Thin Men, in fine form (this is the band that played at the Eldon Stomp for the Cavers Fair at Pindale last year). Their were quite a few Derbyshire cavers in attendence as we bumped into members from the TSG, Masson and Crewe. Needless to say, the evening degenerated into a drunken riot. We managed to get young Steve crowd surfing for a good 30 seconds before anyone dropped him. And there was a fight at the end for good measure.
The next day no one was up to much, however, Stik, Steve and Nigel took a trip down a very wet Long Churn which was an exciting trip given the wet conditions. Those left in The Dales met up for tea in Bernies before heading for home after an excellent weekends caving and drinking.
Tatham Wife Hole - 24/11/2001
Report by Steve Rider
Being the day of the eagerly awaited NCC Stomp For Braida we decided that an early start and a good caving trip was in order. This not just a good idea because of the stomp but because due to the Foot and Mouth epidemic of 2001 very little caving has been taking place.
Having met Rob and Paz earlier at Inglesport café we set off to look for the other two members of the party, Nige and Steve. Also they could not be found so the four of us made our way to the large layby about ½ mile past the White Scar Show Cave.
The day was incredibly foggy, with only 50ft or so visibility. It was going to be entertaining finding 'Tatty' in the first place. This proved to be the case as it took over 1 ½ hours to locate the entrance !!
Once inside, we met some other cavers who were on their return so a wait was required at the first pitch. At this point Paz subtly took over the rigging and we descended down the first pitch getting rather wet on the way.
A god bit of steady caving can be found down Tatham Wife Hole, nothing too serious, however the duck was pretty full and as Paz had a 'designer' three piece oversuit with no arms on he was not too impressed at having to get well and truly soaked!
We continued to the bottom of the fourth pitch where the streamway continues as a canal until the final sump, which is passable by divers.
Returning the same way, Rob took the derigging and we were all out on surface within 3 ¼ hours of initially entering the cave.
It took 20 mins to walk back to the car, which was by this time in darkness except for the headlights from Nigel's van. They had finally arrived and reported that they had been up to the limestone pavements but could not find the entrance! Never mind, they can get a trip in some other time, and at least they got to go to the pub. After not much time Bob Toogood turned up stating that he had a quiet day, just a quick run up Whernside!
After a few in the Marton Arms the seven of us made our way down to the Dalesbridge Centre where we were just in time to get seats for the evening's Stomp - see above.
Lower Long Churn - 25/11/2001
Report by Steve Rider
A good, clear-headed, early start was made (not! - see stomp report) to Bernies Café and then on to Selside for a little trip through Long Churn and down into Alum.
That's what we thought! After very heavy rain during the night most places were totally flooded, and Long Churn (upper) was no exception.
Having been warned by fellow cavers not to venture in we made a quick decision, - let’s go and have a look for ourselves. So Stick, Nige and Steve set off for Alum accompanied by Jase who was feeling the worse for wear.
There were plenty of nutters going up and down Alum Pot and we even bumped into our friend the Beer Fairy who was dropping Alum with another team. We carried on past and arrived at the Diccan entrance - this was in flood and would not be passable. We carried on up to the Long Churn Lower entrance and popped our heads in. Again, this was in flood. However, not to be out done by the water we decided to use the ropes (which were for Alum) to rig the stream passage to enable a safe and controlled traverse of Lower Long Churn to take place.
This we did and after much fun and excitement we could leave the fast flowing stream way at the point where the water leaves Long Churn for Diccan. At this point the stream way carries on dry but there was evidence of recent flooding…
After following the stream passage past several deep pools and cascades we finally arrived at the Dolly Tubs pitch which was wet today. We descended down using our last available rope to gain the vantage point in the side of Alum Pot, a stunning location to say the least.
This was an excellent little trip on a day when the conditions meant that the undertaking was serious and the place was not full of school kids.