Photographer:Joe Wilkins
Camera:Mamiya 645
Film:Fuji Pro 400H

Overnight Exploring in Dinorwic Quarry, North Wales

Battling harsh winter weather for a cold night among ruins of an industry long gone

We were cold and wet and miserable as we stood in the drafty slate hut that would be our shelter for the night, it had looked a lot different when I was there in summer - much less inviting six months on. After a few hours fighting traffic on the motorway we’d arrived in North Wales and spent the day exploring a deserted slate quarry above Llanberis until the weather closed in. We were tired and hungry and the last thing we needed was the wind whipping through broken windows all night. Our packs came off, our warm layers went on and we set about stacking slate on the window sills, trying to block out the grim Welsh winter, improving our shelter and killing some time. We were in for a long, cold night.

The next few hours went by slowly, we laid out our sleeping bags on the concrete floor, cooked some food and set a small fire in the make-shift wood stove. We wondered what the quarrymen had used this cluster of buildings for, a few pairs of old work shoes sat on a bench in the corner among kettles and other relics gathered by respectful explorers.

Since its closure in 1969, Dinorwic Quarry—once the second largest slate quarry in the world with a workforce of 3000 men and an output of 100,000 tons of slate each year—has become a 700 acre haven for climbers wanting to be tested against the Welsh slate, we were now being tested against it’s harsh weather. By the firelight we read the names of previous guests etched into the walls over the past decades, all this time these walls had seen people come and go, a witness to the history of the area.

Our minds drifted back to our beds, longing to be comfortable but holding back, saving the joy of finally being warm for later on. We searched the buildings by headtorch for dry wood until Harry discovered a four legged creature that he swore was as big as dog. That was our cue to head for bed, we crawled into our sleeping bags terrified that the Rat Queen would drag us away to her lair in the middle of the night.

At 5:18am I was woken from my broken sleep by a crash next to my head - the wind had blown the door off its hinges and sent it flying across the room. Harry and I set the door back in it’s frame and began barricading it with slate and timber against the howling wind. Louis supervised this from his sleeping bag and helped us with some encouraging words. As the world outside began to lighten the wind died down and we stepped outside to the view of the Snowdon Massif across the valley.

Joe Wilkins is a Sheffield, England based landscape and adventure photographer with an affinity for film. Follow his Instagram for a unique view of the UK countryside

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