Adventure is inside us all. Some people choose to ignore it or don’t even realise they have it; its there lurking in us all. Then every now and again they discover it, then not long after they soon realise that its an amazing place to visit.

Adventure is inside us all. Some people choose to ignore it or don’t even realise they have it; its there lurking in us all, then every now and again they discover it, then not long after they soon realise that its an amazing place to visit. With me, my mind is constantly on an adventure. Even the days I’m at home or sat in the office my mind is constantly dreaming up the next trip. Can that route be climbed? Can I climb it? Is that mountain possible? What if??? These are the questions that run through my head daily but sometimes, dreams and thoughts are all they can be. Most of the time big adventure comes with a big price. Trips to big mountains need the time, cost lots of money and need lots of resources, so it can be difficult to live out every dream you have. However, not all adventures have to cost thousands. Just a few weeks ago I was in North Wales on a climbing trip and due to bad weather we were at a loose end. I had, in the past, heard of an adventurous day out called “Snakes and Ladders”. This was based in the slate quarry’s of Dinorwig some time ago and its adventurer left a story and route description so others could follow their journey. The route consists of caves, rusty ladders, old chains and it makes its way into unknown areas throughout the mountain quarry. With bad rain and heavy winds forecast, what a perfect adventure to take on, we thought. We searched the Internet and found the topo, took some copies and decided to set off. We travelled with only the minimum essentials; waterproofs, harnesses, a few slings, belay plate, 50m rope and the urge to run the route and get out alive before nightfall. The guide recommends 5 hours to complete the full adventure. snake 1With conditions the way they were we needed to move fast and be quicker than that. We set off from the car and decided to run the areas we could, to speed up. The wind and rain was battering both of us and after a few minutes we were both pretty soaked. This wasn’t going to stop us though. We pushed on before arriving at a large cave. As we broke though and out the other side, we seemed to be in a hole in the ground. There was a chain on the vertical rock face leading to opening halfway up the wall. The first obstacle looked interesting, especially as water was running down the blank face. We climbed the chain for around 20 metres, this being difficult not having and traction from our feet on the wall. We eventually arrived at the cave and continued through before coming to an abseil point. Before abseiling we checked on the description to ensure we were on the right track and what we needed to look for next. We needed to be 100% sure on where we were heading. Up in the mountains and not having rescue equipment, entering the wrong hole or cave could be non escapable and fatal. We needed to abseil the line then look for a tiny hole in the rock in which we needed to enter. We searched for what seemed an eternity for that hole, with the wind and rain battering us adventure was sinking and we were both getting cold and the thought of retreat seemed pleasant. But no! We weren't going to give up that easily so continued to search. After around 45 minutes we eventually found something. We were both unsure though as the entrance was small and it was also very dark, so we were concerned that maybe we were dropping into a bottomless void. The gap was barely big enough to fit through so we decided to look though and then squeezed through before dropping to the bottom. It was dark, so dark that although not showing I was scared, I was. I guess I was worried that if there was a hole along the path we would fall. All we could see a long way a way was a tiny light. The end of the tunnel. snake 2 We didn’t have head torches as we wanted an adventure so we made our way along the tunnel, my hands on Phil’s back, one step in front of the other slowly checking for firm ground to stand on as we moved closer to the light. We eventually made it to end and the beat of my heart slowed again. The next section looked dangerous and very unstable. We needed to climb the steep slate scree slope to a flat ledge half way up the mountain. Climbing this was tough, with every two steps forward you would slide one back. We were crossing big slate boulders and thoughts were running through my head that this could avalanche at any time. At one point a rock I used to pull on dislodged and I fell back but luckily I grabbed another as I gasped loudly. That was close! I thought for a few seconds on the reality of what had just happened and then continued up until arriving at the ledge and the section of ladders. The next section was a large rock face with a sequence of ledges up the face. There were ladders running up each face to the ledges. We both looked at each other and laughed, exchanging a few choice words! snake 3 The ladders were rusty, broken, hanging away from the wall, rungs missing and pretty much as old as they looked. We weren’t roped up and decided to go one at a time. As Phil was the lightest I made him go first. These ladders are hard and scary to climb at the best of times but with the rain and strong winds it was a real test. I could feel the ladders swaying in the wind, creaking with every step, then when the wind blew harder I would stop and wait. I will be honest, I was scared. If the ladder broke or fell it would have been the end. Every now again I would hear Phil giggle and I guess he could hear me doing the same. We both knew this was not a giggle of happiness, more of a scared giggle and adrenaline. We eventually made it to the top, to my relief, and found some shelter. We took a little break to eat and read the next part of the adventure. The weather was getting worse and you could see the wind blowing the heavy rain around the mountain. The sky was just black with no outline of a cloud or a hint of improvement. We needed to push on. We had a little walk/run now to get to the next obstacle. The description was for a large hole described as the centre of the earth. At the bottom of this lay two caves which we needed to find. We pushed on and eventually found the hole which was huge and very deep and the only way into it was to abseil. I remember thinking if this is the wrong hole there is no way we are getting out of here. What if there is no cave at the bottom? We would be stuck and with no phone reception our only way out would be to climb featureless slate in the rain. After two 50m abseils we arrived at a section of loose ladders that lead deeper down the hole. The ladder was only attached to the wall by a piece of old rope. I still couldn’t see the caves but wanted to continue so I headed down a number of ladders before arriving at the bottom. I looked around and could see a number of crystal clear pools of water so I scouted about before eventually seeing the entrance to the two small caves. I shouted up to Phil to come down. We were on route. We pushed through the cave into a void as if we were on another planet in complete silence and with a sense of loneliness. I could see another section of ladders in the far corner leading upwards. As this was the only route we pushed on. We climbed the ladders and eventually arrived at the top. We were safe! There was another section to complete which involved crossing an old railway line where the floor had gone, but with the wind and rain so bad we decided to walk around. Just over two and half hours of an amazing adventure and we were back on the footpath which lead back to the car. Of all the mountains I’ve climbed and the adventures and epics I’ve been on, this is up there with the best of them. The route provides adventure, team work and a sense of unknown. I’m not sure how much longer the ladders will last but I hope one day to experience this again.

Tommy

snake 4

snake 6