Snowdonia Trip – Day 4: ZipWorld Caverns

For Jacqueline and I, our last day in Snowdonia began similarly to the previous one; we awoke in our hotel and headed down to the buffet breakfast in the dining room. It was raining again, as it had done for much of our trip, but there wasn’t a lot of wind. We put on our raincoats and set off out of town again. We walked up the main road out towards the slate caverns, where we had been to Bounce Below the previous day.

Today, however, we were going to do a slightly different activity. Whilst still being in the same caverns, today, we had signed up to go around a zip-lining course through the old slate caverns. We checked in at the desk; it was much busier that it had been the previous day. Most people were heading to the trampolines of Bounce Below, the queue for the ZipWorld Caverns was shorter. We were two of seven people heading out on the zip lines. We were fitted out in helmets and given safety harnesses which we donned and tightened. We attached two safety lines to our harness and a pulley. Our guide then took us out into the caverns.

Before they let us out on the course, we had to undergo a safety practice session. We were taken to a medium-sized cavern which had been fitted out with a training course. First up, there was a zig-zagging fence where we would practice attaching and detaching our safety lines. Our two lines were a fool-proof system where the two clips of the safety lines could not be simultaneously disengaged. As soon as one was detached, the other locked, and wouldn’t be able to be removed from a wire until the first was reattached to another wire. The clips would only be reattached if they were put onto a specialised magnetic strip, which meant that one was always attached to a line. We practised attaching and detaching the safety line, heading around and around the fence.

Once the supervisor was satisfied that we were all clipping in and out correctly, he took us over to the second part of the safety course. Here, we practised attaching the zip lines and moving between the various platforms. We attached ourselves to the lowest zip line, that took us about 10 metres from side to side in the cavern, and each zipped down safely. Finally, we were directed to climb up a large ladder, and then to make our way down half a dozen zip lines that criss-crossed the cavern, practising clipping in and out between the lines. Once we all  made our way down, we headed over to the main cavern.

I set off first, followed by Jacqueline and the rest of the group behind us. The main cavern represented about a quarter of the course, but had three quarters of the zip lines. Most of the lines were about twenty to thirty metres long, jumping from side to side of the cavern. Between the lines were sections of so-called via ferrata, pegs into the side of the rock walls that are used to move around the cavern. Beneath us was the dark abyss of the slate cavern, above us were the trampoline nets of Bounce Below.

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The final three zip lines in the main cavern went lengthways along the cavern, covering between fifty and seventy metres each, and were the longest lines on the course. Now, we touched our feet down on solid ground again, and made our way through a network of tunnels. The remainder of the course consisted mostly of sections of via ferrata, interspersed with various pits or ravines crossed by narrow rope bridges or nets. Jacqueline and I went mostly together through this part, until we eventually reached a ladder that was still being traversed by the group half an hour ahead of us. We sat and waited for a bit, before scrambling down the ladder and up a series of nets. This took us to the end of the course.

There was an option for a short extension, which involved a monkey bars set, a very high section of via ferrata and then a very steep zip line to finish on. I went across the bars and made it, though it was rather terrifying as it felt as through only my arm strength was holding me above the deep pit below. Of course, I was clipped in, but I felt like I needed to get across. I could feel my gloves slipping, but a couple of strong swings got me to the end.

Our course came to an end, so we headed back to the staging area to take off our helmets and safety harnesses. We headed out, buzzing with excitement. We walked down the hill away from the slate mine and back to Blaenau Ffestiniog. We had a number of hours to spend before our journey home. There was a bakery in town that we had heard a lot of about, and so we decided to head there. The proprietor was lovely, an old Welsh man with a large bushy moustache, who was very keen to tell us about his products. We both got a savoury and sweet pastry, and headed out to eat them.

We waited around the train station for a bit, watching the steam train come in and go out again. As it was getting a bit cold, we headed up into another cafe in town to have some warm food. Finally, we picked up our bags and headed for the railway station. However; our train and all main line trains out of Blaenau Ffestiniog had been cancelled for urgent tunnel repair following heavy rain from Storm Brian. There was a rail replacement bus scheduled, which picked us up from the bus station next to the railway station. It arrived slightly late, so we arrived in Llandudno Junction a bit late as well. Now, the sun had set and the rest of our journey would be in the dark.

Our scheduled second train from Llandudno Junction to Chester was also cancelled, owing to a broken down train. We had to get a slightly later train, which meant that we missed our connection to London. So when we got to Chester, we had to transfer to another train to take us to Crewe. We transferred almost immediately onto a train into London, getting a slightly earlier train than we were planning to make. This took us all the way in to Euston, where we caught the Underground over to King’s Cross. Hungry, we grabbed burritos for dinner in the King’s Cross foyer, before finally boarding our train back to Cambridge.

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