BALANCED precariously on a wooden beam against a vertical rock wall, more than 30 metres above a darkening slate abyss in an abandoned mine.
You learn a lot about yourself at moments like that.
Heart beating, mind racing.. fear gripped my body as beads of sweat and dirt clung to my worried brow.
I was hundreds of metres below the surface in the historic Cwmorthin Quarry and halfway across the fabled Catwalk, one of the most terrifying sections of the already infamous new attraction from Go Below Underground Adventures.
Mine to Mountain is a psychological and physical assault on the senses, a thrilling, exhausting and quite incredible endurance challenge designed by Miles and Jen Moulding.
‘Attraction’ is perhaps the wrong word. This is not a destination for day trippers – unless you arrive fit and prepared – and most fears will be covered on the day.
Enclosed spaces, darkness, heights, water, being underground, being way out of your comfort zone. Check, check, check.
For me it was the acrophobia. When I found myself pinned to the stone face with a safety harness and karabiners for company, it was a test. It was excruciating. The clipping and unclipping with shaky hands, legs uncertain and heavy feet, questioning your sanity.
I’m happy to say I passed, thanks to the patience of our trusty guide Chris, and the five other members of the group.
We were the first to ever take on this epic new trek, so, despite my reservations, I was never going to turn the opportunity down.
Setting off at 7am on a crisp summer morning, the route took us 1,375ft below Tanygrisiau and Blaenau Ffestiniog to the deepest accessible underground point in the UK, before leading back out into daylight via a series of ferrata-style climbs, traverses and hidden pathways, some littered with stone and slate, others submerged in water.
And then? And then you take on mighty Snowdon, the highest mountain in England and Wales.
An estimated 14 hours in all, and that would prove to be correct, almost to the minute.
Along the way you are given a lesson in safety and survival, but also regaled with tales of the mine’s fascinating history.
The little caban for example, where the ascent begins. This is where miners would congregate on their breaks to share stories, write poems and sing. The fabled home of the Eisteddfod, as the competition and camaraderie spilled out into the communities, bringing people together, inspiring a nation.
From there we made our way up, and up again. Untouched sections of this vast cavernous reserve acting as ladders, natural walkways and steep inclines, each more difficult than the next, and all surrounded by deep vertical drops into oblivion.
Shrouded in black but for our trusty headtorches we scrambled, surfed mountains of scree, grabbed at walls, ropes and waded through groundwater, all the while passing old rail carts, candlesticks and remnants left behind when the mine closed.
Virtually untouched since the 19th century, it is a literal reality check.
And did I mention this place is nicknamed ‘The Slaughterhouse’ because of the number of miners killed working there almost 200 years ago?
Despite that, spirits were high and energy levels kept in check; while this was a test of our mettle, a confrontation unlike anything we had ever experienced, it was just the start.
Hours passed, nerves were frayed and teamwork was key. Overcoming obstacles, putting our faith in the people around us – some who had never met before – and the endless network of man-made bridges, rope rails and platforms, which took years to construct.
Rigorously and regularly put through their paces, a testament to the Moulding family and their team.
Shards of sunshine appeared, and after seven levels we emerged from the caves to breathe in the air. Eyes readjusting to the bright light, there was not a cloud in the sky.
Then onwards, upwards to Snowdon. We had vanquished the mine, and moments of sheer terror, to begin the second half of this groundbreaking expedition.
Many thousands of people reach its summit every year, and that itself is an admirable achievement.
To do so at this point seemed like madness. But we did. The pride and unity we felt at conquering the underground spurred us along the world-famous ‘Pyg’ track in the searing heat, having already hiked across the border into Gwynedd from Conwy.
It was, as the tagline promised, ‘the Ultimate Ascent’. Climbing, clambering, we reached the summit and were welcomed by the clearest blue you’ve ever seen.
Together, we celebrated, but as any walker knows, the way down is not necessarily easier than the way up.
Jolting, jarring stone steps would form our path to glory. We swept along the Miners Track amidst wondrous scenery.
It was one of the most scintillating days of my life, and perhaps the most rewarding. We pushed each other on, laughed, ached and finished together. Overwhelming pride, relief and tired limbs. We had made it.
A truly unique and gripping venture from the darkest underground depths to one of the most beautiful places on earth. This is a challenge unlike any other, and one you simply must experience. Add it to the bucket list.
The trek is ideal or groups looking to raise money for charity or as a team-building exercise.
For more information and to register your place on Mine to Mountain, visit http://www.go-below.co.uk/mine_to_mountain.asp