18 July 2012

Rarely visited depths

I wanted to go underground. Hugh and Lionel wanted to dangle from a rope. Rick wanted to have a look in a mine he had only been down in 1996. And all of that combined well...

Rick brought us to a mine shaft that had blended into the forested background, and soon vanished into the depths. I wasn't too sure what would happen next; he shouted from below it turned out not to be the shaft he had had in mind! Would this one do? Answering that question required some mucking around in decaying organic debris, littered with frogs, that had all but clogged up a passage. But after some dirty work the passage was not only passable (as a passage should be) but also turned out to lead where we wanted to be. A narrow winze to the next level down! Rick had been down there before; no idea how he had done that, for we had to drill our own holes in order to get the anchoring point required to fix a rope. But for the rest of us this was new territory.

Drilling holes and putting in bolts is a bit of faff, but it would turn out worthwhile. The winze was a bit dodgy, so Hugh decided he would not risk having his inexperience cause any damage to mine or person. So the three of us vanished from sight, carefully lowering ourselves past the rickety structures. And off we were.

Where do we want to hang the rope from? Here!

Is the rock good enough?

It is - the hole can be drilled

Blowing the drill dust out of the hole

And fixing the rope to the bolt we put in. Done!

We found an impressive stope, alluring ladder ways, a flooded level, nice launders, and even the footprints of the original miners. These hobnail boot prints are unmistakable! Except for Rick and his companion, somewhere in the nineties, hardly anybody must have been there since the mine closed... quite a privilege to be there.

Imprints of hobnail boots!

Rick and me posing

We didn't linger too long; Hugh was waiting for us. With surprising easy we came up the dodgy winze, and only minutes later we had de-rigged and were on our way out. In the swampy squeeze I got yet another bonus: I was greeted by a newt! They might not be too rare, but they sure are rarely seen by me. And upon coming out we saw something rare again: the sun! An elusive companion this summer, so far. So we could end this lovely trip with a pint in the sun. Not at all bad!

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