I’ve always wanted to do the Croesor-Rhosydd Slate Mine through trip in Snowdonia. It’s by many accounts one of the toughest mine explorations in Britain, requiring specialized equipment (like pulleys), solid SRT (Single Rope Technique) knowledge and a fair amount of physical strength and stamina to make it through the grueling 6-hour journey from Croesor to Rhosydd. On the way, you have to negotiate a bridge of death, a zipline, a broken bridge and a lake in a ghost boat.
To make it even more interesting, we planned to go underground in 2014 and emerging on the other side in 2015. It worked, and we had an amazing time. Below is some video from the trip. We had little light and I needed both hands at all times so it’s very grainy and shaky but it will certainly give you a sense of the place. It’s pretty spectacular and I would jump at the chance to go back again.
Unfortunately however, after our successful through trip, we emerged into 90mph winds, rain and sleet and couldn’t see a meter in front of us. We were obviously not at full strength of mind or body upon emerging (you can hear how tired I am at the end of the video) and got totally lost trying to find the car. We traversed the mountain for hours, hitting cliff after cliff, baited by our dying GPS, going numb in the slicing sleet. I reached a point when I was not even afraid anymore, I simply despaired. I’ve never felt that before, I’ve never approached the edge of giving up – it was surreal. The only thing I knew for sure was that we could not stop walking – nothing would have been more dangerous than stopping in that weather.
We emerged out of the storm 16 hours after we left the car, 8 miles away from it in Tanygrisiau. We had to hitchhike back half dead (thank you for the woman and two kids who picked us up in your white van on New Year Day, you saved us!). After a 5-hour drive back to Southampton via Oxford pounding caffeine, I slept another 12 and woke up covered in bruises and walking like an old man.
I’m really grateful to my friend Ben Hudson for getting us through the mine and storm but we’ve both vowed to never let that happen again. Happy new year everyone – starting the year almost dying is, I think, just about the right tone. Let’s hammer 2015.