08 September 2013

Scaffolding fun

"...NORMAL people, who don't go dragging scaffolding poles through tight, muddy caves..." So that clears things up then! Do you indeed NOT engage in above activity? Congratulations, you're normal! At least according to Matt, who is the source of the above quote. I'm not normal. I already dragged scaff through tight, muddy underground spaces years ago. And this was a mine, not a cave, but I don't think that makes much of a difference.

Anyway. So I'm not normal, and I looked forward to ferrying scaffolding to the very end of Jenga Pot. When I arrived I could already hear the clanging of the poles; when I had changed and reached the entrance everybody, except one other late-comer, was already underground, but they weren't far; I could hear them still. So I clambered after them.

I wasn't even immediately sure who the yellow-clad chap in front of me was. It turned out to be one of the new guys, who had come to see Excalibur last week; one of the three Richards we had that day. (We were with only six, mind you! This must be one of the reasons these chaps like nicknames so much.) Soon he reached the bottom of the cave; from there on it's mostly horizontal. There he found all the scaffolding, and there Lee, the last inline, joined us. Let the ferrying begin!

 Richard, seen from above, in the narrow rift with all the scaffolding poles

Why were we bringing building material in a cave to start with? I spoke of the boulder choke at the far end (about half a km in), behind which we expect more passages, potentially leading to Excalibur pot. The men had blown up a few of the boulders, but we didn't want to cross before the remaining boulders had been stabilized. And that's where the scaff comes in. And this evening we were with no fewer than nine people; an excellent opportunity to make a money chain, and get these heavy bits of metal to the far end of the tight, muddy cave!

From the bottom of the cave things got difficult. That is where the belly-crawling through cold mud started. And where you have to belly-crawl, you tend to have little space to look what you're doing, or to move your limbs around. But we managed! And every time the scaffs landed at the front, and we leap-frogged over to repeat the exercise, we seemed to get quicker at it. So slowly but steadily they moved deeper into the recesses of this esoteric cave. With us in tow! Several of us had never been that far in; Lee hadn't because the last time he showed up this part hadn't been discovered, Richard because he had never been in Jenga at all, and Chalky because he had never before dared venture the trip, as he was (rightly!) afraid that while crawling though the sucking mud his leg would come off.

 My view back


And my view forward

Before we knew it we reached the end. We inspected the results of the earlier blasting, and then it was pub O'clock. So we turned back! As on the way in, I was behind Richard, who was easily the tallest of the bunch. And height is often a disadvantage underground. As is size in all directions. So he struggled. In the narrowest passage he even thought he'd gotten stuck. He hadn't, of course. With some extra will power he wiggled himself through. But you could tell he was getting tired.

 The monkey chain - notice the lights in the distance, below the light patch Laura makes on the wall

I was behind him, not wearing a wetsuit, and quite aware of the very cold mud we were lying in a lot of the time. The more mud, the slower Richard got! And it's easy to get very cold. So I was eager for him to keep going. And he did.

In the last little chamber before the climb out he let me go first, so he could have a breather. I was keen to clamber out, and have a wash! I was looking as I usually do coming out of that place. And I know I tend to be the last one in the pub if I first rinse off. So I was a bit rude, left Richard, and marched to the water. And was the last one in the pub! But not by far. Richard, who had been much filthier in the face than me (that's the being bigger, and being less able to lift your face out of the mud), looked quite clean too, so he must have found water without me. And in the pub we found Gary and Richard (one of the other ones); they hadn't made it in time to come down, either on purpose (Richard) or because of work (Gary). We had a nice pint! And next week, that scaff can be put to use... which brings us one step closer to finding out what is behind the boulder choke!

No comments: