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Saturday, 23 August 2014

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Chance to climb down Lake District mine

It is a new attraction that is sure to get you off your feet.

Alan Hinkes photo
Climber Alan Hinkes gives it a go

If you enjoy hanging around then a visit to Honister Slate Mine is definitely one for you.

The News & Star was invited along with a group of local VIPs to take a sneak peak at the new ‘Climb the Mine’ attraction near Keswick which is set to open on Saturday April 12.

Participants start by clipping themselves to specially laid out ring attached to the side of the mine, before trying to navigate themselves to the top. Once reaching a plateau, they must climb up a ladder on to a Burma Bridge – walking along only one piece of wire – before continuing their climb.

After navigating another steep ladder the still keen participants come up against a postman’s walk rope bridge, testing balancing skills, before making their final climb down the slate mine wall.

The dark and chilly slate mine formed a challenging backdrop for what turned out to be a fun morning for all. Leading the group was guide Johny Rastoaca. He said: “It is accessible for people from about ten onwards, we will see how old we get.

“It isn’t too hard but it is certainly a tester, life is about challenges. You have got to test yourselves now and again.”

In the middle of his challenging climb, Tom Humphries, 12, from Mungrisdale, said: “It is really good fun. The course is a lot different to anything I’ve ever done before.”

Speaking afterwards, the oldest participant world-renowned mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington, 79, who lives near Caldbeck, said he thoroughly enjoyed the course.

“It is really good fun, fantastic. It would be fabulous for anyone aged between 10 and nearly 80, like me. What a good idea.”

Alan Hinkes OBE, a renowned climber from Cumbria, said: “It was a great little outing. It would be tough especially if you had never done it before, taxing stuff. No doubt about it, it was exciting. And what an environment to do it in, gives it that extra something.”

The mine’s ambitious co-owner Jan Wilkinson is not planning on stopping there.

There are plans afoot to flood part of the course creating an underground lake and for participants to continue their climb into other areas of the mine, eventually reaching the summit, some 2,126ft high.

She said: “I’m always excited about something new coming to the Lake District.

“I tried it out the other day with some 12-year-olds and they got very excited, high as kites.

“It gives a glimpse into an underground world most people will have never seen before.”

Gnash Baxter, Honister’s technical advisor, said the scheme was around seven years in the making.

“It all came about when myself and Mark Weir started building the first Via Ferrata and said how good it would to get something inside the mine.

“I think he would be impressed with the product that we have.”

Mine owner Mr Weir – who was Ms Wilkinson’s partner – was killed in a helicopter crash near the mine in March 2011 just minutes after taking off.

An inquest recorded a verdict of accidental death after hearing he lost control of his Gazelle in difficult conditions at Seatoller.

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