27 August 2019

Pantywrach: watching other people drill

A long time ago I had been in Pantywrach. And over the summer, Edwyn had gone back on his own, for the heck of it. He had explored a slightly different mart of the mine, and he had found some bits we could expand on.  So we made it a Thursdaynighter trip! He figured we could re-bolt a traverse that, by the look of the gear, had been bolted in the 70s or 80s, and then explore a bit further. He hoped we could do a through trip; come in from the top and walk out at the bottom.

I drove through awful traffic to the gathering spot. It was the worst traffic I'd ever seen in North Wales! No idea why it was so bad. But I was the second to arrive. David was already there. Then Jason and Edwyn appeared too and we were complete. Edwyn had brought a ladder.

We changed and walked up. Pantywrach is not easily accessible! It's a sweaty slog up a steep, pathless and wooded slope. Not easier with a ladder! But we got there. Edwyn put the ladder down an adit and then rigged from the top. Distributed over rope and ladder we all went down. And then we got to the traverse. David started drilling. And there wasn't much else to do! Edwyn assisted and Jason and me relaxed.

Jason and me having a picnic while David does the work. Pic by Edwyn.

When David was ready he crossed. And then stood on the other side, on a ledge. We could see from where we were that it was a really iffy ledge! It looked like it could plunge into the unfathomable depths any minute. So he couldn't really move much without bolting that side too.

I came along too. David wasn't convinced by his own traverse so he asked me to stay on the rope too. But that's a silly idea! He has a shunt, so he can just stay connected to a rope and move that connection along at will, but I had to work with my stop. That only moves if you put your full weight on it! But what are you doing with the traverse if your weight is on the rope? I didn't want to lose the traverse, but if you have one hand on that you have only one hand for working the stop, and then you can't control your speed. So as soon as I pressed the handle (with my left hand. even) I plunged like a brick. Not comfortable! But I made it across and came off the rope.

David went on bolting. Edwyn thought he remembered we could go into a side passage, but that only went a few meters. We had to follow the crumbly stope! And that was wet. Edwyn had painted this as a bone dry trip so I was in hiking boots, not wellies. Never believe anyone who says a trip is dry!

David drilling in the stope

Edwyn in the passage we started in

David and Edwyn went ahead. I followed slowly, trying to balance on loose rocks, and spanning the width of the passage with my legs, in an attempt to keep my feet dry. It was a bit of a faff. I came to a corner and was surprised Jason hadn't overtaken me yet. He wasn't so sure of this traverse!

I went on to find out if the idea was to go out where the other men had gone. I struggled through more wet passage, and established voice contact. They said they were at the top of a long pitch but they didn't trust the bolts there either! And we had run out by then. So they had to retrace their steps. I clambered back to Jason and told him we weren't going out that way. He said he would just go out and scout a different hole we had seen on the way! And I went back to do my laboured trying-to-stay-dry-thing again. I actually slightly hurt my ankle doing that. By then the men we coming back up. Not worth for me to go down. I decided to stay ahead of them and went out!

It was very sweaty and steamy outside. And full of insects. Not comfortable! I went back to the cars. The next morning I would have a difficult meeting with my line manager and I didn't want to be too sleepy for that.

I had changed by the time the men arrived. I gave them a hug and scarpered! It had been a bit of a daft trip but what can you do. We would have to come back with more bolts and finish the job! And then I'll come in wellies.

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