Friday, February 23, 2018

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Snakes, ladders and the Bridge of Death!

Disclaimer: I do not accept any liability for any injury or fatality that may occur on this route as a result of the information or misinformation detailed and provided here.

The overall grade of HVS is given for this route. In my opinion grouping all the aspects together, I feel this appropriate. This was our first time in the slate quarries which heightened the experience but don't underestimate the route finding! Going off route could cost you time and it wouldn't be the place to navigate in the dark if lost. You should allow 5 hours as a minimum, which gives plenty of time for picnics and photographs. I have been reasonably vague with the route finding as it is a climbing adventure and part of the fun is the discovery.

We climbed the first snake in the wet and ended up aid climbing, it was a slippery undertaking and care should be taken on this section, especially if raining. Going hand over hand all the way would give you forearms like Popeye by the top (if indeed you made it?).

All the ladders are pretty suspect and you must use your judgment as an experienced party of how they are ascended or descended safely. The Bridge of Death should not be crossed and it's quite acceptable to skirt above and around to exit the quarry.

To be honest what more do you do on a wet day in North Wales? We'd been looking forward to a good day climbing but as we drove down the 55 through the Conway tunnels, we realised that the rainy low cloud would be in for the day.

It's a slate exploration in a land that time forgot, said my buddy Paul willing me into the challenge.

Go on it will be fun...

So once parked in the bus turnaround at Dinorwig our adventure began. First make your way down the track until you can spot Dali's cave on the hillside, head up left facing the cave and avoid any antics trying to scale the fence.

Dali's cave and the start of the adventure!

Dali's cave and the start of the adventure!

Once through Dali and another short tunnel into California you will come across your first snake.

Slippery slate and a suspect chain!

Slippery slate and a suspect chain!

Give it a tug, but not too hard...this will become all too apparent when you see how it is anchored at the top!

Once you have wrestled the snake to the top, which I found particularly difficult with the wet slate. The chain awkward and fiddly, too big to get a decent hold and too small to feel like a jug. My puny biceps were all but burnt out when the final mantel brought the sanctuary of the cave.

Dave being a smug bar steward up the first Snake

Dave being a smug bar steward up the first snake

Chain hooked over steel rods. Scary...

Laughing at my Buddy struggle with the greasy offering was pure delight and for the first time that day I thought that this, just could be a bit of fun! After much shouting and swearing from my buddy along with my hefty splurges of sarcastic banter about him being a pussy and climbing like a girl, (no offence ladies) we eventually both stood there grinning like we had conquered K2!

Once through to the other side, which proved to myself that I could never be into pot holing, we arrived back where we had started.

The search then began for the Tunnel of Love that is down to the right as you emerge from the cave. It's not an easy find but eventually you see the signs.

Graffiti artists at work

Once located my fears of pot holing re emerged as Paul slipped through the entrance. I was convinced that I wouldn't fit, that was somewhat confirmed by Paul's banter that I shouldn't have eaten all the pies!


Paul slipping through at the point of no return

When I had finally squeezed myself in I was relieved that the tunnel opened out into a more manageable space. The area was once sealed off by a wooden and mesh structure but years of traffic and exploration had seen to its demise and with head torches shining brightly, on we went.

The cave forks but keep to the left and before long you will emerge out into the bottom of Australia, this opens up into a huge quarry with relics everywhere from days gone by. The actual size of the quarry took my breath away, its worth a few moments thought to imagine the toil and sweat needed to create such a crevasse in a Welsh hillside. If you're quiet enough you may just hear the tired, wandering souls of long ago miners.

Emerging from Australia

Best to take the slight path to the right as you look forward from the cave. It's a fair slog but eventually through the crumbling masses of scree and rotten slate you will emerge onto the plateau.

Scree path heads off under the face on the right.

With a handy rock for a picnic table, of which we made good use off.


At the picnic table with the brew on.


The disused huts look like they are well past their sell by date but you soon realise that you are not alone! With a good helping of cheese and pickle sandwiches packed that morning, barbequed goat was definitely off the menu!

Someone's watching you!


Well refreshed you are now ready to take the first ladder of the day. We contemplated roping up to protect the second but decided against it and all man like I strode up to tackle it. Had a few second thoughts that this was not such a good idea as I struggled to top out from the sloped steps! Relief was plentiful when I grabbed a clump of grass to aid my departure from the rusting structure. Paul kindly posed for a picture with the first of many ladders almost in the bag.

Paul on the first of the day's ladders.


After scaling the first dodgy ladder realising it really is as bad as you first thought! Then just follow your nose discovering various states of erosion and acrobatics with some ladders that beggar belief that they are still clinging to the rock...

Dave doing a dodgy changeover!

Paul looks on in wonderment when he discovers the ladder he has just scaled is held in place via a couple of old pipes weighted down with a pile of slate. Feel free to add another chunk of slate to settle the nerves of the second.

One of the worst fixings for a set of ladders!

Might be described as foolhardy even!

Time to have a good look around and root out the last set of three ladders that will take you to the top of the terrace. It's the set that has a pipe running almost parallel to the ladders.

Dave on the last set of three ladders to the top terrace.


Once on the top enjoy the view of Llanberis and take a breather to get your bearings for the next part of the journey.

View of Llanberis

From the top terrace follow a path downwards bearing away to the left. If you look right you will see California and the first of the snakes that was scaled at the start. Keep heading down until you come to the top of the Lost World.

An amazing spectacle awaits your eyes as you approach the edge of the Lost World. It is an epic looking sight and one that you can't wait to get down into and explore. Before you start the decent to the lush green quarry bottom eye up the caves, it's the far bottom pair that you are interested in as one leads to the Mordor!

Head over to the right, facing forward and find an abseil station with a couple of shinny bolts. A couple of abseils down and a couple of further ladders will see you at the bottom.

Second of the abseils into The Lost World.


Before heading over past the pond to the left hand side tunnel (if you're making good time) then it's another good spot to let your mind wander. The height and steepness of the rock faces are worth spending a few minutes of your time, you never know you could eye up a good line to have a go at?
Through the short left tunnel will bring you into another smaller quarry with a slender path that looks down into the depths of Mordor. It looked dank and miserable and was taking quite a bit of water from the recent rains.

The great ladder of Mordor looked tempting but with rumbling stomachs knew that it could wait for another day.

Two more rickety ladders, not only lose but with a fair section of the rungs replaced with rotting abseil tat and rope are to be found over in the corner. (The worst ladders of the lot)
After topping out, Paul checked his notes and with the need for a pint looming was pleased that this was the last top out and it was homeward bound after this...

"apart from the Bridge of Death".

"Bridge of what? I thought it was just snakes and ladders"?

But no! He'd saved the best until last...

Another photo opportunity before the final obstacle.

Head off to the left until progress it firmly halted by what looks like a scene set for an Indiana Jones movie and eye up the Bridge of Death!!!

Bridge of Death...

Paul venturing across, butt cheeks clenched tight enough to crack nuts. Being first across we agreed that roping up would make his body easier to find if the bridge collapsed, dragging him down the 1,000 foot drop burying him in an avalanche of slate. Also neither of us wanted to carry it fearing that extra few pound would be the straw that broke the bridges back!

Paul. AKA Indiana Jones!


I drew a huge lungful of courage for my turn. I could hear handfuls of slate falling from under the tracks as the bridge strained with my nimble 200 lb, gingerly testing the start. Slightly unnerved by Paul's screaming, "I'm alive, I'm alive, I'm alive" and kissing the grass on the other side! Never have I felt so envious!

Halfway across I eyed the join in the tracks, held together by bubbling rust and not a lot else, with further slate falls in the background I began the Lords Prayer; Our Father who art in Heaven.... just managing the Amen as I scurried off the tracks and to the safety of the grass and a grinning Buddy.

Can you see the Bridge of Death and the fall that waits?

Looking back at the the bag!

Go on it will be fun my arse....!

Anglesey Arms just rewards.

And finally.  Come on Paul, hurry up and eat your just reward. Its time to take you back to the hospital for your treatment after another great day.......


Paul too late in administering his medication!


Copyright - Dave Clarke 2012

© Copyright Images - Blanchard Clarke Collection

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