It was minus three degrees centigrade and a fell wind was coming all the way from the Siberian steppes as we drew into the Welsh Slate quarry car park. A small party of walkers were heading off up the hill towards the north summit of Manod Mawr, but having done that in summer and nearly half-frozen to death, I didn't envy them.
No, we were going to do something much more sensible. Our plan was to wade into the flooded level C chamber in the north twll at Cwt-y-Bugail.
|Moel Penamnen from the Rhiwbach Tramway|
We set out onto the Rhiwbach tramway, past the dark pit of Fridd. The crumbling walls of this ancient quarry were frosted and hung with chandeliers of ice. Every now and then a mighty crack was heard as another icicle fell, warmed by the fitful sunshine. Further along the tramway, Moel Penamnen was lit up against a threatening sky as we turned along the Cwt-y-Bugail branch. It began to snow.
Once at the quarry, we delved into the level B adit for a wee fix of blackness. The tunnels were colder than we'd had expected, the wind barrelling through like an underground train, but we stopped for a while and took some photos of the icicles, something we'd not seen here before. We pottered around in the two chambers on level B trying to take decent photographs, but the cold was seeping through my gloves and through the two fleeces I had on under my coat. I'd had to take my woolly hat off to put the Petzl lid on, and that didn't seem to have warmed up either. Enthusiasm was diminishing by the minute and wading in icy water began to seem very stupid, especially as I remembered how cold it was last time, and that was in August. The obvious conclusion is that we're just not made of the intrepid stuff that polar explorers are made of. I considered this as I sipped a mug of hot tea in front of the fire, back at the mill, wondering how those walkers had got on up on South Top.
|Inside Chamber B4. There are three large holes in the hillside above and these passages both open out into the easternmost one. The hole goes down to level E.|
|Icicles at Fridd|