Entrance to Zip World Caverns

Scaring myself at Zip World caverns, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd

I wasn’t sure whether to be nervous or excited when my partner bought me a birthday voucher for Zip World caverns. Billed as an exhilarating underground journey using zip lines, rope bridges, via ferrata and tunnels, it’s one of the experiences that’s taking adventure tourism to a new level in North Wales.

Based at Llechwedd Slate Mine the site also provides the opportunity to ride on a four person zip line and bounce on an underground trampoline. But I think the Caverns Experience is definitely the most exciting!

Kitting up

My adventure started in the kit room. As well as myself, there were two family groups ranging in age from 11-55 years. Following the instructor, the eight of us stepped into harnesses, tightened belts and buckles, attached the trolley (zip lining device) then donned helmet and gloves. We almost looked like we knew what we were doing.

Zip World Caverns training
Zip World Caverns training

Part 1 training

After a brief introduction we stepped outside for our first training session. On the ground we were shown how to click our harness system onto the safety cable.

Outdoor training area at Zip World Caverns
Outdoor training area at Zip World Caverns

If you’ve tackled a Go Ape course you’ll be familiar with the safety cable system. Zip World uses something slightly different, CliC-iT, which relies on magnets between the two lanyard connectors to stop accidental unclipping. You are only able to have one connector unattached at any one time which is reassuring. However it does require practice and this was our opportunity. Best to perfect it on the ground in daylight.

Part 2 training

We soon graduated into the second training area. Led inside the cave, we passed the underground trampolines in Bounce Below, where my kids were burning off some energy, to reach a ladder and small set of zip wires.

Here we were shown how to attach the trolley to the zip line (with the wobbly bit next to your nose) and how to hold the device when ziplining. And then we were let loose on the mini zip wire course.

Indoor training area at Zip World Caverns
Indoor training area at Zip World Caverns

Rather nervously, I climbed the ladder to the highest zip line, clipped on and launched myself off. Although daunting I’ve tackled enough zip lines to know that the step off the safety ledge is the hardest part. Before long, I had zoomed back and forth across the cave several times until I reached floor level.

If, after this stage, you decide you don’t want to go into the caverns there’s a chance to pull out and get a full refund. Everyone in our group was happy to continue so we walked back through to the caverns.

Onto the caverns

The instructor leaves you after the training sessions and you complete the course at your own pace (although you’ll always have people in front and behind). The caverns are monitored by a myriad of CCTV cameras so if you get stuck you can raise your hand and wait for help.

The training sessions were very good at familiarising us with the equipment. But they in no way prepare you for the environment that you encounter in the caverns themselves. From my perspective that’s actually a good thing; I prefer not to know. But if you want to, then read on.

The zip wires

The first part of the cavern adventure is all about the zip wires. There are evidently ten of them but I wasn’t counting!

The zip wires start high then get lower and longer as you progress through the course. A couple at the end have a very fast landing. I discovered the trick is to start moving your legs a little just as you approach the end so that you’re ready. I’m not sure this makes the slightest difference but it gave me something to focus on apart from the impending cavern wall. If all else fails there’s plenty of crash mat protection!

Inside Zip World Caverns
Inside Zip World Caverns

There’s a photo opportunity on zip line number nine and although I remembered to smile for the camera I also put my arm in front of my face. No souvenir photograph for me then.

The via ferrata

Popular in the Italian Dolomites, via ferrata are a way of traversing cliffs using metal rungs, ladders and bridges. The second half of our route took us along the edge of the cavern wall, up and down ladders and across a variety of bridges. I shuffled across tree trunks, crawled through tunnels and clambered up rope nets.

This part of the course was much harder for me as I don’t like the exposure that comes with heights. I found it tricky balancing on an iron foot hold, holding on to a rung above me and attempting to re-clip my leads on to the next wire. All the time trying not to look down. I admit it, I was scared.

I wasn’t the only scared person. There were plenty of shrieks coming from all around, which did little to reassure me. Although the family in front kept an eye on me, gleefully telling me how difficult the next parts were. After an hour or so I was happy and relieved to reach the end of the course, but slightly disappointed there wasn’t a final zip wire to ride.

24 thoughts on “Scaring myself at Zip World caverns, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd”

  1. Nice to read an impartial review.
    I’ve been desperate to visit for a while but then recently a friend went and was very Luke warm about her experience, throwing in a horror story about (grossly) unclean overalls for good measure – I’ll spare you the details!
    I’m sure I’d love scaring myself silly though. 🙂

    1. Do go, it’s great fun! Doesn’t sound like your friend had a good experience though. That said, we didn’t have overalls so I wonder if it’s for a different place? I think there are a couple of companies offering similar adventures.

  2. Good on you for giving it a go Christine. I am not good with heights either and tried zip lining in the rainforest in Tasmania a few years ago. It was lots of fun and I really got a boost from taking myself out of my comfort zone. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    1. We went to Tasmania on our Oz working holiday back in 1997. Such a beautiful island, would love to visit again one day.

  3. I ‘ve ziplined a few times and like it, but having to climb ladders and the tiny platforms makes me a bit nervous about this one! Looks like you enjoyed it though!

    1. Thanks Andrea. There were a lot of adults on the trampolines too (Bounce Below), although I definitely preferred the caverns experience.

  4. Hi Christine, I’ve never been on a Zip line before (unless the handheld ones a kiddies playground count). You are a far braver lady than I. Zip World does sound quite an experience, but I think I would have had a heart attack on the first section and probably frozen in fear on the second part. It sounds like one of those things I would love to do but would be too scared to do.

    As for Velocity? You are now officially mad in my eyes (hope you don’t have to wait to long before you do it!).


  5. Ow. I don’t know. Part of me thinks I’d love to challenge myself. The other part is not sure. Wonderful that there are places that you can try this. It does look like an amazing adventure and you obviously enjoyed it if you’ve added another to your bucket list.

    1. I didn’t really have a choice as my other half bought me it as a present. Fortunately he knew it’s the sort of thing I’d probably enjoy.

  6. I used to love this sort of thing, but a serious knee injury two years ago put such plans on the back burner for a while. But I’m pretty sure that my eleven-year old will soon be trying to convince me that I’ve recovered enough to get back to some serious adrenaline rushes once again. Great inspiration – thanks! #farawayfiles

    1. My son is eleven too and it is the kind of thing he’d love (rather expensive for a family though). Hope your knee holds out in 2017.

    1. Thanks Corey. You go so fast on the zip lines you hardly notice your surroundings. It’s only once you get on to the via ferrata that you start to worry 🙂

  7. Zip lining IN a cave?? I have never heard of any such thing before but it sounds amazingly cool. I love caves to begin with, but this would definitely be an experience on a different level!

  8. This looks and sounds amazing! Pretty good value for money too. I have lost some of my nerve since having kids but I would still love to give this a go;) Thanks for linking to #MondayEscapes

    1. Thanks Lisa. It is expensive but good value. You could spend a small fortune trying out all the different activities they offer though.

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