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Trip to Aberllyn Zinc Mine -- 20th Feb 2011

Group: Ian, Roger, Dave

This trip was to be a quick tour of a very extensive mine for a couple of the group who missed the previous trip. The weather was pretty dull as we set out from the Wirral and didn't improve by the time we parked up in the forest layby. At least it wasn't raining as we trudged up to the 'usual' access. Once inside the mine we headed into the cathedral stope and had a tour around level 3 which had been rigged with traverse lines around the exposed sections. There are quite a few blind cross cuts and several passages blocked by falls. At the far reaches is a ladderway leading up to level 2, however the bottom ladder is missing so that just the platform and upper ladder (of unknown condition) remain. Similarly heading outbye there is another ladderway heading down to level 4 where the upper ladder is missing most of the rungs and the platform looks a bit suspect.

We headed around to the ore chutes and climbed up a winze with a knotted rope to a sub-level which has an abseil rope rigged to drop back into level 3 as the side of the cathedral stope. Carrying on up a short metal ladder and pull up on a knotted rope saw us safely on level 2.

Level 2 isn't as extensive as level 3, but does have a large number of blind cross cuts and a few other passages which are blocked by falls. It is possible to explore in two directions: Heading outbye several short blind passages are passed and a draught of air can be felt. The water level increases but with care you can remain dryshod. It is possible to peer out of the gated level 2 adit (care! The path to Llyn y Parc leads straight past the grille so that dog walkers etc could see your lights). Heading inbye there are a couple of holes in the floor to level 3 and the level is intersected by a stope which has a lot of hydrozincite staining. There are a couple of bolts in the wall and a ledge continuing the level which could be followed by the foolhardy (there is no traverse line and the fall would kill you!) and would probably lead to the far ladderway mentioned above.

Heading back to the level 3 connection point, a scramble up a rubble slope and pull up a knotted rope led to level 1 with the open stope to the surface. The floor had a lot of leaf litter and a surprising collection of amphibians. We initially found a small froglet and pondered returning it to the surface, and were hunting for a suitable container when Ian spotted another small frog and a big toad. We decided this must be there home. There was an interesting collection of boots in the passage and further exploration led to another open stope which was sadly filled with rubbish bags from the nearby cottage. We headed back along the passage and over a couple of minor collapses to reach the fixed rope and ladder down to the sub-level between level 1 and level 2. This is right at the top of the cathedral stope and we used the excellent in-situ abseil rope to drop all the way down to level 4.

Level 4 has some massive platforms which form a sort of sub-level. The timber work is substantial, but fairly soft, so one platform has collapsed. Passing under the platforms led to the laddered winze up to level 3 and further on the passage has suffered a collapse. Heading in the other direction a draught from the level 4 portal could be felt, but no-one wanted to brave the thigh deep ochre to peep outside. We contented ourselves looking at the ore chutes including one in a side passage which was complete with the operating handle. There were also some nice formations. We headed back to the cathedral stope and rigged a rope down to level 5. Dropping down the rope led to a slope which ended with a bit of passage over a drop. There was a rickety bit of ladder spanning the drop which we crossed and side passage which had a couple of ladders down to level 5 proper. We headed down and had a good look around, but avoided getting too deep in the ochre and so didn't find the 5-6 connection.
This wasn't a great loss as we hadn't planned to exit this way. After a tour around we prussicked back up the rope and then made out way out.

A really excellent trip, with some nice formations and quite a few artifacts to see.

Total trip time about 4 hours