SWCC: Stuart Reedman, Richard Sore and Claire Vivian
PUG: Brian Davies
Saturday: Mona-Parys through trip.
This was a great trip! It was physical and seemed more like a cave than a mine a lot of the time. There were crawls, wading through waist/chest deep water, ladders, steps and handlines. All thoroughly enjoyable (except maybe to Stuart who has an aversion to water…) and a very different sort of trip. But it must have been very unpleasant to work here as a miner.
For modern day Parys Mountain, it all began on 2nd March 1768 when a large vein of copper ore was discovered there. Copper was mined at Parys Mountain and then taken down to Amlwch Port where it was processed further before being shipped to Swansea fo and also around the world. Indeed, the mine later developed into one of the largest copper mines in the world, the largest, some might argue. Apparently, so influential was Amlwch and Anglesey copper that the British navy under Lord Nelson used the metal for sheathing its ships and for use in manufacturing cannons. Incredibly, it seems as far back as 4,000 years ago, during the Bronze Age, local people had discovered traces of copper here and on the trip we were shown evidence of Bronze Age workings (dug out using pebbles).
Above ground is a surreal, alien, landscape with red, yellow and brown hues of ochre. When the light catches it, it is radiant and almost pretty really, more reminiscent of Utah colours than Wales.
Stuart and Richard at the Great Opencast
Panorama of The Great Opencast
|On the summit of Parys Mountain with the remains of the windmill in the background.|
For Friday night, we camped at Cae Ffynnon campsite in Rhosgoch. This was basic, but adequate, and you couldn't get more convenient for our purposes as the pub (the Ring) was a 2 minute walk from the site and Parys Mountain itself was less than a 10 minute drive away. Which we were very relieved at as it had taken almost 6 hours to drive here from South Wales.
|The SWCC Anglesey campsite in the early morning mist.|
To enter Parys Mountain, you need a leader from the Parys Underground Group. Our leader for the day was Brian and he set a spritely pace throughout and was highly knowledgeable about the mine and the work of the group. The PUG have a small hut to change in and this is only a few minutes from the entrance to Mona mine. There were plenty of iron oxide stals, snotites and even snotite curtains, which I had not seen in any mine I’d been in before. On the whole, the mine was well-decorated and it would have easily been possible to spend more time there than we did.
One chamber was incredibly decorated with bright blue stal and crystals (copper sulphate?). As Rich said, it was worth a trip to Anglesey, just to see this.
|Rich with some of the copper sulphate crystals. The photo doesn't do them justice. The chamber was covered in them!|
I hadn’t been to Anglesey before, nor had I heard much about Parys Mountain before the trip, so I didn’t know what to expect. By the end of the day, I was deeply impressed by both. The only downside was the sulphurous smells at times and the slight ochre staining on the oversuit which took several washes to come out!
The trip was mainly dry, but there were some sections of water that were waist deep and the connection itself, which was the drainage level between Mona and Parys mines, was constricted and the water was slightly higher here. I was bending at the waist to walk through the passage and the water was a couple of inches below my face. We were told that the water level varied here and at times it was necessary to remove your helmet as there would be only a few inches of air space. The water in the mine was also incredibly acidic (pH of 2 in places; tap water would be around 7) and there were regular wash stations to clean eyes if any happened to splash in your face. I know this doesn't sound good, but it didn't cause us any problems in there.
It is possible to do several different trips in Parys Mountain of varying length, level of difficulty and wetness(!), including a brand new SRT trip that the PUG have only just set up. The PUG is to be applauded. With only 9 regular members they are doing a tremendous amount of work in the mine and are also keen to offer tourist trips not only to visiting cavers, but also to members of the public who wish to join them on Wednesday evenings. That really is a tremendous effort! If only more local people could be persuaded to join them underground and enlarge their group, they could learn a great deal about their own history as well as gain a sense of adventure exploring these passages and mine shafts.
Total trip time: 4 hours.
|Rich and the Wall of Death|
|Stuart, Brian and Richard after the trip|
Following the trip we took a walk around the Great Opencast and other surface features and then headed to Amlwch for some lunch. After eating we decided to do a mini road trip around Anglesey. We had a look around Beaumaris and then on to LlanfairPG before heading across the Menai Strait to Bangor. We then headed off to our second campsite of the weekend (Llechrwd Campsite, near Blaenau Festiniog) - being as we were going to be based in Snowdonia the next day, it made logistical sense to have two campsites for the weekend.
View from Beaumaris looking back at Snowdonia.
|Meal out at the huge Oakley Arms a few minutes' drive from the campsite (we got there 5 minutes before last food orders!)|
Sunday: Croesor-Rhosydd through trip.
We had certainly had a full day on Saturday, so we were slightly tired the next morning and Stuart found that his knee (which he had injured skiing) was not too great. Nevertheless, we headed for Croesor to do the infamous Croesor-Rhosydd through trip. This was only a 15 minute drive from our new campsite. The last time I had been here we found a tremendously steep and boggy route to get to the Croesor entrance approximately 2 miles away. This time, we followed a much better path that would have been driveable with a 4x4 and led straight to the mine entrance, via a dead sheep.
|Rich and Stu at the Croesor entrance|
|Rich on the zipwire|
|The suspension bridge.|
|The first Bridge of Death, you can traverse across this with your cowstails on the wire.|
|Abseil time! I hope there is a boat there....|
|Rich abseiling in to the canoe (yes, that is quite a lot of water already in there).|
|Route finding in Rhosydd.|
There was then a short section of prusiking and we were soon entering Rhosydd mine. Rich fancied trying to find the adit exit to this so we walked around for a while looking for this. We were unsuccessful and ended up climbing out of one of the many areas where daylight is visible up a slate slope. I tried the little-known sport of slate surfing several times here and then we were up on the surface. There was a slightly awkward and slippery climb out of the quarry (the Twll), although this was slightly easier than the last horrendous climb we had found and formed a human pyramid to climb up the last time I was here. We hoped to find an easy route back to the Croesor entrance, but the weather had turned by now and the cloud was down so we missed that and found a bog to walk through instead. But it had been a fun trip. Zipwires, abseiling and the feeling of near peril made it exciting. A total trip time of 3 hours and we were back at the car park by 4pm, meeting Stuart and washing our kit in the river.
|The walk back to Croesor|