Will’s hole is a relatively small cave with not an awful lot to see in the way of formations, but what it does have is a very simple pitch. Gareth and I have been learning basic SRT for a few months now, and have been keen to try it out underground. We know it’s a very busy spot along that river, so we had two mates, James and Steve come along and make sure nobody tampered with our ropes. We all met at Gareth’s house for 5:30pm, and made our way to Dinas Rock. Gareth and I kitted up, and we all headed up river to wills hole. There were loads of people out climbing and bouldering, and a few interested in what we were up to. It was about 7pm by the time we arrived at the cave entrance, and we didn’t hang around, straight in, down the 2m free climb and at the first rigging point, a railway track across the rift passage. Rigging was straightforward, I used my hand jammer as a lanyard to rig at the pitch head, and it worked well. Once ready we wasted no time, I couldn’t, I’m way to nervous with heights, so I loaded up my descender, and sat into my harness, I was really nervous, but confident in mine, and Gareth’s ability, and I started the descent of our first SRT trip. We were both soon at the bottom without a hitch. We got our SRT kit of and headed to the right side passage. There isn’t much in the way of formations on this section, but there’s plenty of mud! Thick, silty, sticky, glutinous, mud that you have to crawl through. We came to a choke and couldn’t see a way on, so headed back to the pitch to look at the other passages. The main passage is nicely decorated at the high levels, along with a lot of flood debris, giving a good idea how high the water gets in there. Before long we were at the end again and headed back out. Gareth went first, and both ascending without a problem, and de-rigging going just as well. In what felt like no time at all, but it was actually about 2 hours, we were back on the surface with James and Steve chatting to some climbers.
This was to be my first trip underground in a very long time. This time last year, we had missed a lot of caving due to COVID restrictions and I was looking forward to the prospect of caving again in the New Year. I was unaware that in just three days time, I would be looking at a positive test result followed by several weeks in intensive care and a further few weeks on a renal ward before finally coming home in the latter part of March. It’s been a long haul since then and had taken me a long time to recover enough fitness to even think about getting underground again. I was now thinking that a nice easy trip would be achievable and Upper Dinas Silica mine with its large galleries and no crawling with minimal scrambling would fit the bill. Previously, access to the mine has been via either the very steep path up the rock from the car park or by following the river upstream and climbing up the waterfalls. Now though, an old right of way has been re-opened due to the efforts of Roy Fellowes, the owner of the mine and I thought this would be an easy way up.
The Monday was a bank holiday and Zeb and Xavier had said they fancied a trip and I picked them up at a nice reasonable time of about lunchtime and we managed to make reasonable time through the roadworks to the car park at Dinas Rock.
Dinas Rock is an imposing place and legend tells that this is the resting place of King Arthur and his Knights. It is also said that there are many fairies here and in British Goblins, Wirt Sykes wrote of the place’s bad reputation. More recently, the area has seen extensive mining for silica that was used for the production of fire bricks that were used extensively in the steel making industry throughout the world. Now, mining has ceased and the area is more likely to be infested with cavers, climbers and walkers.
There are a number of caves and mines here and we were to visit the largest, Upper Dinas Silica mine. The re-opened way to the mine is to come out of the car park and follow the road over the bridge and up a hill past some glamping pods on the right until a clear path is found leading off to the left. The path is well kept although muddy in places and takes you to the top of the gorge where some old structures that used to support the pylons for the aerial ropeway are to be found. The path takes you down a steep slope that ends at the bridge on the other side of the river from Upper Dinas by the entrance to the smaller mine opposite, Middle Dinas Silica Mine.
Middle Dinas consists of three levels, the lower of which floods, the level of which depends on the river level outside. On previous visits, there has been a large, deep pool in the main passage but this time it was more or less dry and we were able to have a good look around. Zeb climbed an ascending passage that goes up to another passage and a higher entrance. After a look around, we crossed exited and crossed the bridge to enter Upper Dinas itself.
Upper Dinas is a massive, impressive place with the upper, unflooded section being effectively a massive chamber on a steep incline, interspersed with many pillars that support the roof.
We did the usual thing which is to follow the big level just up from the flooded levels until near the end then drop down and continue to reach the furthest point east in the mine to find there had been some other idiots there before us.
Retracing our steps, we climbed up to the remains of the winch which has a large ventilation shaft that slopes upwards to the side of the winch. Zeb went off to explore whilst Xavier and I were more sensible and hung around below taking photos until Zeb returned with a tuft of grass to prove he’d found the the exit to the surface above.
Heading back towards the entrance, we gradually climbed upwards as we went by climbing up a level, following on for a way and then climbing back up again. This way we made it to the top entrances and emerged into the open. A short scramble then to the path that took us back down to the car park. It was great to get out and get underground again. It showed me that I still have a way to go as I found some of the scrambling and hills difficult. With time and effort though, I am confident that I will be able to get some way back to where I was before COVID. However, for my first trip back, I was thoroughly knackered but very chuffed to be back.
Surveys of the mines can be found in Caves and Mines of The Sychryd Gorge.
Information on access to this mine and others can be found at the website of Cambrian Mines
Andrew “Zeb” Zerbino
With the aim of allowing Vicky and Tom to try out their newly aquired SRT skills, a suitable pitch was needed and so Will’s Hole was settled upon.
It transpired that Vicky and Zeb were going to have some problem getting to Dinas Rock in the near future so Tom, Tristan and I continued on ahead to rendevous with Huw Jones, the club tacklemaster to pick up some club kit and then on to Dinas Rock find a completely packed car park. Luckily one van was leaving so we were able to squeeze Tom’s Disco, change and head on upstream to the cave where we quickly entered and made the short way to the pitch.
There are a load of ancient spit anchors placed all over the pitch in Will’s Hole, the majority of which are very dubious along with a piece of railway placed back from the pitch at floor level, the best of a bad lot were selected and the pitch rigged.
Tom was first off down the pitch followed by Tris and finally myself.
Tom sets off down the pitch.
I’d love to say that Will’s Hole is an amazing cave that should be on everyone’s to do list, but I can’t. It’s a horrible, muddy dismal place and after taking some pictures, we were soon ready to head back out.
Just as we were getting to the pitch, we heard a “Hullooo” from the top. Vicky and Zeb had arrived. The three of us at the bottom headed up to meet them and to allow them to visit the muddy delights that awaited them.
Tom Sets Off
Tom Approaches the Pitch Head
Tris At the Top
Vicky Heads Down
Zeb and Vicky also didn’t stay too long in the cave, just long enough for one of them to fall gracelessly into the mud taking the other with them. Then it was back on to the rope and back up and out.
Vicky Appears at The Top
Zeb On Way Up
Zeb at the Top
Will’s Hole is not a great cave and as it is used quite a bit, could probably do with some P-bolts placed to ease the rigging. However, we did enjoy the visit especially for the chance for some SRT.
Andrew “Zeb” Zerbino
After leaving the delightful Will’s Hole behind us, we decided to go back to the cars via the Upper Silica Mine that can be reached by following the river upstream until an obvious mine entrance is found up a banking and behind a low fence.
We entered via the lower entrance and had a quick look around the lower levels where you can walk to the far end of the mine with steep inclines to your left that lead to higher parallel galleries and lower flooded levels to your right.
Looking back to the lower entrance
And we explored some of the lower levels of the mine.
Tris decided to have a look at one of the flooded levels.
And we threatened Zeb with what might happen the next time he’s late.
Late again and we remove the chocks…
A detour to the crane and then back out by climbing the slope up to an upper entrance at the top of the hill.
Approaching the Upper Entrances
Tris Looking Back In
It is quite amazing when you pop out the top of the hill to realise that the whole interior of the hill has been hollowed out by mining activity.
A walk back down off the rock back to the cars followed completed an enjoyable double-trip day.