(by Cearbhall Daly – October 2013)
Exploring Dinorwic Quarry – Llanberis
A few years ago I heard of an adventure route in the Dinorwic Quarry in Llanberis called Snakes & Ladders & Tunnels. Although not in any guidebook and not a conventional climb as such, a little research showed it to be a kind of rusty Welsh via ferrata and most suitable for a rainy day. Being over for Gerrys annual Snowdonia meet and the forecasted arrival of this weekends storm presented an ideal opportunity to finally check this out so we set off with a party of six.
We found the start at Dalis Hole and followed a tunnel past the spectacular Hades before finally emerging into the morning sunshine in California. We scrambled across this quarry to find a 15m rusty chain dangling from a cave high up the cliff face. Dave C drew the short straw here as we roped up but he was soon up in the cave above and after some huffing and puffing the rest of us joined him atop of the snake. We then splashed and paddled our way through this tunnel to emerge back high up in Dalis Hole. After a short abseil from a tree at the cave mouth we were down on the spoil and searching for the secret entrance to Australia. This has previously eluded some parties but Gerry & Dave managed to locate this after a quick recce.
After a tight squeeze we descended into darkness and stumbled on towards a faint light in the distance. (using head-torchs is not considered kosher). Eventually we emerged in Tasmania, the bottom level of the massive Australia workings. A long and precarious scramble brought us to a series of rusty shaky ladders attached to the slate with the most dubious looking tat and chains. We climbed these to reach our high point of the day with fantastic views of The Pass, Llanberis and Lyn Padarn far below us.
We then dropped down a level to explore some abandoned mine buildings and took a welcome lunch break. Suitably refreshed, our route now continued, descending scree and then a series of abseils and ladders until we reached the Lost World, a lush subtropical haven surrounded by towering slate cliffs on all sides. We crossed the Crocodile Pond and found a tunnel that led into Mordor. Taking care not to plunge to the fathomless depths we skirted around to the Great Ladder, many of the rungs of this were not great at all but had been replaced by dodgy tat. Luckily it proved fit for purpose and we climbed up to the Kyber Pass and scaling one last ladder we were almost done. There was one final obstacle that confronted us, the Bridge Of Death, an ancient rickety unsupported rail-track on the verge of collapse that crosses a deep chasm.
Eventually Sile decided to brave this, the high winds and not to mention many missing bolts and sleepers adding to the excitement. She was then followed by both Daves anxious to tick this one off before its imminent collapse (the more sensible of us having given this one a wide berth)
After a short scramble down we were on the path back to Dalis and home. The day remained dry and sunny throughout, surprisingly the best weather day of the weekend. Thanks to Dave K, Gerry, Margaret, Sile & Dave C for a great day out. Cearbhall
The Bridge of Death collapsed in February 2014. There has also been significant rockfall in The Lost World. Picture from UKC (http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=249112)