15 June 2017

Back to the ladder

Some weeks ago we had returned to an obscure corner of our favourite mine. We had intended to climb one slab that had a fixed rope, and then a slab which didn't; we had brought a ladder to help that aim. In the end we went elsewhere, but we still wanted to climb that slab. We left the ladder for a later date.

That date was now. Miles was otherwise engaged so I wasn't in the dig. Only a few of us gathered at the parking lot. There had been talk of our troublesome former PhD student Rich joining that night, but he would later turn out to have initially driven to the wrong mine and thus showed up too late.

It had been a wet day and the river was swollen. We lugged a drill, bolting kit, and several ropes up. And then down to where we wanted to be. I was the first one up the first slab, and the first thing I did was check if we had a lot of rope left at the traverse we had rigged the previous time. We didn't; only some nine meters! Oh well. We had brought ropes. But there was something else; the pitch we had done even longer ago had now turned into a veritable waterfall. Oh dear!

I went up the ladder to look at the situation. I knew there were bolts there. I tried one with my spanner; the nut came off! All we needed was hangers and maillons. We had brought those! I went back to get the bolting kit. The first bolt I could rig without too much discomfort, but the next one was already within the realm of the waterfall. Oh dear. I just kept going. I didn't want to get wet for no reason! I made things worse by attaching myself to the rope (which I was attaching to my anchor points) in a rather clumsy way and thus getting stuck between a wet rock and a wet hard place. I got there, though. When I reached the top I found a convenient anchor for the rope at the top and threw the other end down; it reached all the way. David first sent another rope up, and then at my request my bag, which had sandwiches and tea in it. I needed a hot drink after this thorough drenching!

David, Jason and Jay came up too. I had a look with David at where the passage at the side went. Only to the next chamber! You could see around the corner, though. Tempting! I tried (largely unsuccessfully) to photograph the chamber, some artefacts, and the waterfall, and tried to stay warm. Jason gave me his jacket; that's the second time he's done that. David first re-rigged the drop down; I just had used one anchor and an alpine butterfly, but he likes his rigs more thorough. He then tried to rig a traverse into the next chamber. I decided to start making my way down, just to get moving and get warm; Jay was thinking the same, but for reasons of not getting home too late. We went ahead. I left my bag as David needed it for transporting the drill.

A small bottle and some det boxes on display

Jay and I came out. We had no idea how far behind us the others were! After a while I told Jay he should just go if he wanted. He did. I had to wait; I was sharing a car with David.

Twenty-five minutes after Jay and I had come out I heard the others. Good! David was carrying out his jacket. He handed it to me; it was more use around my shoulders. We went back to the cars and there I tried to get comfortable. I regretted not having brought dry underwear. And I don't like going commando! I had to accept going home in damp pants. Oh well. An acceptable sacrifice for new ground gained (by us, then; others had clearly been here before). When will I be back? Might not be for a while; I might be back in the dig soon! And that's proper new ground we're gaining there. But these forays in rarely visited terrain are quite exciting too!

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