25 January 2017

Another breakthrough

It was going to be an uneventful Thursday. I thought! Initially, Miles had suggested digging that day, but unforeseen circumstances had come in the way, and I was resigned to a day in the office and just a walk-around underground trip afterwards. It didn't go that way!

In the morning I found a message from Miles saying he would head down anyway. Great! I packed my car and drove to the office; I'd find out there what time we'd meet. He suggested noon; that left but little office time, but hey ho, digging is more fun. We met up and went in.

I got down first and started the generator. We'd need it! Miles started by making the passage we had come through for the first time some two and a half weeks ago a bit more comfortable, which had him drill holes for explosives. I started making my way into the chamber; we had so far veered only meters from the chamber wall at the bottom, but we knew the top of the chamber featured access to a higher level. It could, though, be quite some work to wriggle one's way through the entire chamber which was full of broken rock; we didn't know how high it was piled. I started clearing a narrow gap between big rocks, in order to slither in. It looked promising! The gap was wide enough for me and clearing out rocks went fairly well.

After a while we were ready to set off Miles' explosives. This time we we using fuses rather than electricity, so we could only reasonably set off one at a time. We did, and had a cup of tea while the smoke settled. These fuses produce a lot of it!

When we came back, Miles started clearing rubble while I continued with my quest. Then we set off another one. This time we had some food while waiting for the smoke to clear. We decided to leave the last one for when we would go.

Then it was time to have a look at the next collapse. Miles prodded here and levered there and scratched his chin and then had a look at the bottom left corner. I hadn't paid any attention to that bit myself! It looked easy to clear the first bit. We started to scrape away at the rubble. Minutes later I was in. It went a fair way! I had to shove some rocks out of the way but there was space to put them. After a while I came to a funny drop. I chanced it! And then I came to a spot from where my way was blocked. But I could see past the blockage, straight into the level! It was so close! I figured I would only have to blow up one rock to get through. Exciting!

I went back. The strange drop backwards was a bit of a challenge. In the end I managed upside down, without a hat. This part of the passage was clearly the crux. It soon acquired that name. But having made my way past it I could report back!

We decided I'd first make the passage a bit less uncomfortable by taking a hammer to the sharp edges of the Crux, while Miles would drill some holes around the entrance to make the passage bigger. My hammering action worked; I tried the Crux-new-style and it was a lot less uncomfortable. I could pass now upside up while wearing my helmet! Good enough for me.

Miles was done with his shot holes. That meant the drill was free for another one, in the rock that blocked my way! With the Crux now being reasonable, I was up for it. I took the drill down and with some difficulty made a hole. Success! I then placed the charge and wired everything up and we were ready for another round of blasting! We first did the electric one in the back (I didn't want to do that one with a fuse) and immediately afterwards the one in the front. Another forced tea break! Which was good, as I really wanted some tea by then. We sat in the next level, seeing the white tentacled  cloud slowly creep towards us, then engulf us. Scenic!

After a while we came back to have a look. I went in, tried to squeeze through, but failed. The rock I'd blown up was largely (and sufficiently) gone, but there was one beyond getting in my way. It was rather large! I went back to get a hammer and a crowbar. I first hammered a bit at the slivers of rock still in place, to give myself more room to manoeuvre. Then the hard bit started; trying to get rid of the big rock while half pendant in the air with only my lower body supported by rock, with no space for my helmet. Pulling the rock tended to mean pulling myself off my perch. It was hard! But I am stubborn, and I just kept lugging at it until it moved. I managed to shove it to the side. Success! I slithered past, and wormed my way upwards. It fit! Only just, but it fit! I was in the level! Through by Easter? Through in a few hours!

 The level!

I took a picture of the pristine level, with its clear water. I would probably stir up some mud if I walked through. Then I did! The water was knee deep and very cold. I got to the next chamber and had a little look at it. It looked good! It was collapsed, but there was a big gap along the wall, even bigger than the one we had found in the previous one.

The collapsed next chamber

I didn't explore any further as, admittedly, I was absolutely zonked by now. I squeezed back into the passage, thereby emptying my boots into my suit, and managed to get back, hammer and crowbar and all. I reported back to Miles. He won't fit through until we've done quite a few more work with crowbars and explosives, but this is going well! But it was enough for one day.

We gathered the stuff we had to bring back, set off the last charge, and left. It was just after seven. I was not only tired but also hungry and dirty! I was keen to get home and address all these issues. I hope we'll be back soon; I want to have a look at that next chamber while still fresh! And I want to take a crowbar to the narrow bits. Working from the other side will make things a lot easier!

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