If you're a mine explorer, you tend to pay extra attention to holes in the topography. We sometimes do trips to scout out holes that someone has seen during a leisurely walk through the countryside. And so we did last Sunday. A shaft, some adit and some stoping had been observed, and we wanted to have a look at it all. Some of these features were quite a way apart, so it would involve quite some walking around. The weather forecast was atrocious, but when we got to the parking place it turned out to be quite nice!
We had a nice walk past a stope that could only be dropped on a rope. We would leave this one for now. The we came to another stope which was a crawl-in. It looked promising, but there were bats there, so we left it for later in the season, when the bats would be on holiday. We continued down the hill, and passed a very wet adit. I lowered myself into it to see if it went; it turned out you could see that as well from the dam that kept the water in, without getting wet yourself. Oh well! But we walked on.
A nice stroll in the countryside
We then came to a little adit; this one only went a short distance. Then we tried a nearby stope; that didn't go far either. Then we figured it was a good time to have lunch. The weather was nice, the views were great, what more do you want? And we had to decide what to do next. I wanted to drop the shaft that had been mentioned, but David wanted to take Rich, our new recruit,
to get to see some proper mine and not only a few trial adits. We decided to split up; half went off in the direction of the shaft, and the others in the direction of the entrance to a known through trip.
We decided to have a look at some work being done along the river, and then walk up to the shaft. It was quite a walk! When we got there I lay down to look in. It went a fair way! This looked promising. We started to rig.I was the first down. It was a bit of a challenging pitch; it wasn't quite vertical, and there was a lot of slosh that readily came down. Furthermore, a fully grown tree had ended up in the shaft, getting in the way and entangling the rope. I proceeded slowly!
We thought we had seen the bottom from the top, but that wasn't true; the shaft had a bit of a bend in it, and went further down. It went quite a way! And I didn't see any obvious way on but maybe there was a less obvious one. When I got to the bottom I unclipped from the rope. I saw there was a potential way on, down a rat hole at the bottom, but I was a bit weary about giving it a try. I couldn't communicate with the top, so any time someone would notice the slack rope and come down too. And throw who knows what on my head! There was pretty much nowhere to hide. I stuck my head in; it clearly went, but was the opening big enough? I'd wait for Edwyn. I wedged myself into the least exposed corner and waited for him.
The tree in the shaft
Edwyn came down. As soon as I could hear him, I asked him to relay the message to the top that nobody else should come down until further notice; with nowhere to hide two people down was the maximum number. He yelled up and it seemed sorted.
Edwyn touched down, and I showed him the situation. I tried the squeeze; it felt unpleasantly tight. Not a good idea to get stuck! I retreated. Then Edwyn had a look, but he didn't want to go too far in. We decided to go back up. I went first. Edwyn suggested I go up to a side passage I had missed on the way down, get off the rope, and let him go up while I scouted it out. From there we could go up all the way. I set off. I was reminded of the fact my chest croll slips. It has lost some of its teeth! I had noticed before; in early December already
, to be precise. I had failed to take action on it though. Now I regretted that. I went up awkwardly! But I got there. I got out of the rope. Within seconds I had seen the side passage didn't go any further. There was, however, a big clump of lead in it. Edwyn had commented on some mostly-buried lead at the bottom and that it would be worth a lot. Maybe he wanted this more accessible clump?
A cute mushroomed pine cone I found in the side passage
He came up. He liked the clump! I suggested he go up to the top while I tie the lead to the rope. And so we did. When I was up we teamed up to lug the lead up, de-rigged, and went back to the cars. There we changed, and waited for those who had done the through trip. It was quite pleasant! It may have been January, but I was happily lingering around in my T-shirt. And we had a good day to look back on! And after a while we saw lights. The others! They had had fun too.
The stope was had passed without dropping it was a good candidate for being on the other side of thew squeeze we had seen. It would be worth dropping that and seeing if that was indeed the case! We might even be able to make the passage bigger from the other side. Well worth the try!