26 January 2013


The title of this posting should have been different. We were supposed to go to a mine nobody had been in for decades. It had been capped. The landowner, though, had decided to take the cap off, and ask us to have a look what was inside. Of course we jumped at the opportunity! Uncharted territory is quite special. Even though you shouldn't have your hopes up too high: you might hit a collapse after mere feet and not be able to get any further. But we took the chance.

I was already approaching the regional road when suddenly it dawned on me I had forgotten my caving suit. Shit! And this would only be the beginning. I turned back, very displeased with myself, got the suit, and then drove west once again, a bit faster I otherwise might have done. That didn't stop people from overtaking me; very close to the meeting point, a black car passed me, with a lady in it who waved frantically at me. It turned out to be Lionel's girlfriend; she had made her debut in the caving club when I was in the Netherlands, and today she intended to bike around while we explored this new mine. I was glad to meet her!

When we reached the services that functioned as our meeting point, some of us decided to wait inside, and have a coffee; some of us are quite infamous for often being late. When the late-comers arrived, those waiting for them outside failed to inform them we were already there, so they waited outside for us while we waited inside for them. Brilliant! When that was resolved we went to the actual mine, or rather; we tried; we lost the only person who knew where it was, and he doesn't have a mobile phone. By some magic we found it anyway, and by more magic we managed to not get stuck on the muddy track with our two-wheel drives. We had a look at the hole; it looked promising, though wet! The big heavy tractor that had been used to lift off the cap was still there, so we could easily rig from it. I decided to change.

Then I gathered my stuff and wanted to lock the car. the keys, where were the keys? I'm always afraid to lock the keys inside the car, so this time I had stuck them underneath my knee pads, so that couldn't happen. But they weren't there anymore. They must have fallen out. But there were no keys to be seen on the few square metres of ground I'd walked on!

I looked and looked. Felt through the mud of the track, several times. Searched my tackle bag. Several times. And my other bags. And all my pockets. Everything! In the meantime others had rigged the hole, and gone down. I decided they were really gone; we had better just go underground, and phone the AA once we were out. But when I got to the hole, Mark was already coming out; it didn't go! There was a passage from the shaft, but it only lead some ten metres. A bit disappointing. But what can one do...

Mark emerges from the new shaft

Upon hearing of my key ordeal, someone suggested I should strip. These keys must be somewhere! And that was reasonable advice. So I started with taking my harness off. And what did I immediately see? My keys! They were draped elegantly over the sling I have hanging from the back of the harness, to hang my bag from when moving along a rope. (You don't want to have a bag on your back; it will pull you backwards. A bag hanging underneath you will keep your body vertical.) I believe that when I knelt to tie my shoe laces, the sling had ended up near my knee, and hooked behind the keys. And they had stayed there, all that time I was looking. I felt stupid, but I was glad I had them again! This also meant I could join the alternative trip; there was a mine nearby I had never visited. This was Luna.

We drove to the other venue, and kitted up again. Including Lionel's girlfriend; she hadn't been up for an unknown trip with serious SRT, but Luna was known and not so demanding. Though when we tried to get to the entrance things got rather challenging after all! Nasty climbs down, involving blind jumping; not my favourite. And then we saw Mark appear from somewhere else; he knew the hard-to-find but easy-to-negotiate way. Dear. It really was that kind of day. But from then on all would go well; we got to the entrance, reached a small internal shaft, rigged it, went down, had a scurry around, marvelled at the very irregular maze of tunnels, had a drink, and then went back. We had a great time!

Luna is on a beautiful part of the Cornish coast

 The entrance is in some strange hole in the ground

We left the shaft via the side exit
Lionel and Corinne (spelling?)

Young Dave climbs out of the little shaft

When we got out the sky was already turning pink

When we were out I was pleased to see Lionel's girlfriend had enjoyed herself. Good! We'll see her next week! It's always nice if you see people be infected withe the caving bug. And without further issues with keys or suits or misunderstandings we went to the pub for a nice after mine pint. And then went home. Maybe not what we had hoped; it would have been nice to explore a new mine, but this was a good day too! In spite of all its silly mishaps!

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