22 September 2015

Introducing throngs underground

If people say you're a mine explorer people tend to be interested. Not necessarily interested in joining; most say it wouldn't be for them, but people who think the worst place to hang out in your spare time is dark, wet, cold and dirty (and perhaps tight - most people think there is a lot of belly-crawling involve din mine exploration, which it isn't) often are quite interested in why others disagree. Sometimes, though, people think it's cool and suggest they may join one day. Most never do.

In the past 1.5 years we brought a few people underground; Paul's visiting Canadians, some mine explorers' family members, and such. My colleague Alejandro joined one night when I was abroad. But one week we'd get two guests in one go: our lab tech Jess and her newfangled husband would join. Nice! We picked a nicely accessible mine for the purpose. And then our regular Edwyn mailed he'd bring a friend. And then some chap appeared on internet, wanting to do a completely different trip but whom we convinced to first show up on a low-key trip like this. Could he bring some mates, was the question. He could.
File:Chwarel Wrysgan - geograph.org.uk - 332554.jpg
 The mill that belongs with the mine. Pic by Dewi

We gathered at the usual place. Cars everywhere! All of the announced guests showed up! Blimey. We had doubled in numbers. This had never happened before. We kitted Jess and Sean out with helmets and lights; others looked after the others (with mixed results, I'm afraid), and after some introductions and faff we set of. We'd go to Wrysgan again; the last time I'd been there we had been on our annual Victorian trip, but we'd been there several times before in order to restore a collapsed passage and thereby creating a nice through-trip. That passage, unfortunately, had re-collapsed; we wanted to go and have a look to see if we could open it once again, or whether it would just keep collapsing which would mean one wouldn't want to be in it at any time.

In a long line we set off. It takes a while to get to the highest level from which you can drop down again to the blocked passage in question, especially with a large group. When we got there we had a look; it looked rather iffy! On one side there were rocks dangling above the passage that were cracked and looked like they were holding back a great weight; on another side there was a lot of loose stuff of which it is always hard to guess how much of it there is. We might have to give up on this passage. Too bad; it would be nice to not have to go back all the way to the top level to get out.

While some of us veteran passage-diggers assessed the hole the others started to make their way up. At the top we caught up with them. We decided to get out there and walk back down via the outside of the hill.

Jess and Sean probably won't be back. They're moving to Canada soon. At least one of the others seemed keen to show up more often. Maybe we got some new blood! I hope, though, that next time it comes slightly more diluted!

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