22 August 2010

Relaxing underground assault course

At 8.15 I was on the move. And at that hour, on a Sunday, nobody else is. And for the first time in many months I had not forgotten the front of my car radio, so on the empty roads I listened to music and was quite happy.

I had gotten my voice back the day before, and I expected it to be even better after a night’s sleep. So I figured I could do a trip with the Cornish madmen. And that’s how I ended up on the Cornish country roads; fortunately, it wouldn’t be too deep into Cornwall this time.

When I arrived there was only one van there. Not unsurprising; this time there wouldn’t be many from Plymouth (which is fairly surprising), and the Cornish are infamously unpunctual. And the other PCG members coming; Hugh and Trish, knew that, and didn’t bother to hurry either. The van belonged to Martin, who had explored and rigged the whole system, and his wife. As we had to wait anyway he showed me an impressive hole: a collapse, providing a possible alternative way in...

But eventually everybody showed up, and we got geared up, and soon I was on my way down. A pretty mine! It turned out the mine is mainly a narrow, vertical lode, often higher than you can see. And in days gone by you would have been able to walk long distances, but time and the concomitant collapses had changed that. Every few tens of metres there was some hole or some climb to be negotiated. Lots of ladders, hand lines, and proper SRT pitches. Fun! And my voice held; I could talk but not shout, so I used a whistle for indicating “rope free!”, and that worked like a dream.

The entrance seen from below

Even though that way you don’t move fast, we were at the end, which was a drainage adit full of water, around noon. So we sat down for a cup of coffee and a sandwich, and then we started the way back up. It was a bit of an assault course! But a very pretty one.

Some of the beams were mouldy in a very pretty way!

The entrance, evidently, let in some daylight, and the lode had collapsed in a few places more (treacherous terrain there!) so near where we had descended there was lots of filtered sunlight coming in from far, far above. Beautiful! By the time it reached us it looked like moonlight. I sat on a rock for a while, admiring the view, while in front of me Martin was ascending, and behind me Daz was searching for pretty minerals. And then it was time to go back up...

Me maniacally grinning while doing a short vertical pitch
At the re-belay halfway I was struggling with my bag; since the Wheel Jane trip I don’t believe in short trips anymore, and I bring litres of water, which is nice, but you have to drag it up as well. Or rather, you don’t actually, come to think of it. I could well have just ditched the cold water and drank the hot water once back at the surface. Ah well. One lives and learns. I was dragging it all back up, anyway, and I have a special talent for making one big tangle of the rope, my cow tails, my foot loop, and whatever else you can entangle. So that was a bit of a mess, while I heard Martin above me shout “rope free!”, indicating he had got off the rope above the re-belay. I heard Daz below me shout back “OK!”, and then put weight on the rope I was still dangling from. Oi! Now I had to shout; a whistle would not have clearly communicated “not this rope, you @#”*&%”.

Daz coming up...

...and out.

Without issues, however, I came up, and then it was time to enjoy all that water, both hot and cold, in the sun at the surface. That’s another nice part of caving: slouching at the entrance, just chatting away over a coffee or so. When we were all up we went back to the cars and changed. Half of us went straight back home, but Martin, Tina, Daz and me went for a quick pint. And then it was time to go back. I drove through the rolling landscape, looking back on a lovely trip, lip-synching along with the music, figuring these may have been the most relaxing road trips I’d ever done. And I realised there were days that I had to be on holiday to see such landscapes, and now they’re my back garden. And I could sense autumn approaching... in short, this was a very pleasant trip. Maybe I’ll be back; Martin is not done yet...

After-trip picture previews

1 comment:

Stuart Spindlow said...

I also want to take underground assault course training, great tips dear.