22 May 2016

Not finding the connection

In January I found a small hole at the bottom of a shaft. You could see it went somewhere, but the hole was too small to get through. The shaft would be a terrible place from which to try and make the hole bigger; abseiling it was already a pain because there was a tree in it, in which the rope kept getting tangled, and the shaft had lots of loose stuff that would fall down when someone descended. Any other person down there would get that stuff on their head as there was nowhere to shelter. It would be better to get to that hole from the comfortable-looking other side! But how would one get there? There was one obvious option: from the nearby open stope. I wanted to go and see. I suggested a trip a few times, but it never happened.

I figured a different approach was needed. I suggested a date to Edwyn, with whom I had dropped the shaft in the first place. We would just find a date convenient to us both, and then see who wanted to join! Not too many people; you can't move fast looking for a passage with many, and if we would get to the dig, there would be little space. When we had set a date I asked Phil and David if they wanted to join but they were otherwise engaged. The two of us, then!

I had a very pleasant surprise when I arranged the details with Edwyn. He told me to text when I left home so he would have coffee ready when I got to his place; we would set off from there. People giving me coffee in the morning make me very happy! And it took me only two attempts to find his place (read the bloody email) so soon after 8AM I was having a lovely mug in his garden. Not a bad way to start the day. I also got introduced to his wife and the cat. All good!

We set off and got changed. We had brought two ropes, but we left the long one in the car for now. I didn't expect us to need it, and it's big and clumsy, and we were parked close to the stope of our choice so we could easily go back. Of course this meant we would need it.

We dropped down to a little platform  inside the stope, and soon after decided to change the rigging. We dropped further down, but we soon noticed none of the levels further down were very laterally extensive due to collapsed false floors, but the stope seemed to just go further and further down. Time for the long rope! We went back to get it and re-rigged. 

Edwyn dropping the open stope

With the longer rope we got to a platform. It looked a bit iffy, but it seemed to lead off to one side. Edwyn went exploring while I took some pics. When he confirmed it went I followed. We passed a passage going off in the right direction, but we scouted ahead first. Soon Edwyn scampered down a slope of which he loudly wondered if he could get back up. If Edwyn hesitates, I am well advised to not go there! I could go and get a rope in case he'd need it, but I can't climb things Edwyn finds hard. I waited for him.

By this time we were getting hungry. Edwyn suggested getting something to eat, but I first wanted to look into the promising passage. It didn't lead off into the right direction for more then some two meters, but it did go to where Edwyn had been, while avoiding the tricky slope. Success! And there seemed to be a passage further down. Edwyn checked first; he came to a lower level from which you could see an even lower level, but the rope didn't reach and even Edwyn didn't want to free-climb that. He did scout out a level mid-way which yielded a nice bang box. But we wanted to go further down so we needed the long rope! We decided to have something to eat, and then Edwyn would try to just free-climb out of the open stope. If he managed he could get the long rope; no need for it if we could just clamber out.

A nice cart, behind the hole that lead further down

 The bang box

He set off. The climb started with a slippery bit. He came sliding down several times, but that sort of stuff doesn't stop him. It was a bit unfortunate he once came down, bringing a tree with him, and I was standing so close I had to fend the thing off. With my sprained thumb, of course. Oh dear. I had only recently recovered so much I could change gear (on my bike) normally again with that hand. This would probably set me back a few weeks again! I must be getting old when injuries take that long to heal.

Edwyn came very close to the top, but there it became impossible. He slid down again safely. We would just go up the rope we had in the traditional way, re-rig in this stope with the shorter rope, and then drop this next floor. And so we did.

The stope Edwyn had tried to climb and which we now wanted to rig was in a chopped-down wood. The trees best positioned to rig from we chopped down so low they didn't give enough purchase. There was a tree left with some two meters, but that wasn't in a particularly good position. The stope below it was full of pendant trunks, but Edwyn just chucked them down with panache. That allowed us to go down safely. The rope turned out to be just long enough!

Edwyn freeing up the stope

We came down in a muddy stope. We explored one way; it went. And it didn't just go; it went to a chamber with two impressive headframes. Two headframes? That looked suspiciously like the two headframes of the next mine down. Wait a minute...

We had not found a connection to the shaft, but we had found the connection to the through trip. That's something! The through trip involves some wading through deep cold water and then a slog uphill. If one rigs our pitches beforehand, one can come out this way, avoiding both the water and the slog! So success, in a way.

We explored the other direction too. Nothing interesting there. And time had flown. Trying to drop the stope elsewhere was a bit much for such a sunny day, so we headed back up, de-rigged, and walked back to the car. No passage to the shaft found, but a good day was had! And now I was keen to get out of my stuffy suit. Soon we were back at Edwyn's, where we contemplated our day a bit with another cup of coffee. Edwyn's wife then provided the cherry on the cake by bringing out ice cream. We could go back one day and drop that stope absolutely everywhere. We'll see! But for now my curiosity was satisfied, and I was happy to file this project for now and return to our proper dig. Let's see where that takes us...

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