28 September 2022

Back to Lead

When we had been doing an underground trip in recent weeks, Lydia had been elsewhere. But she came back to Bangor in the week of our field trip. When I was looking for a Ukrainian I bumped into her. She said she had just sent me an email saying that she was back, and that she suggested going underground. So we made a plan! And the week after, we had decided we would go into a local lead mine. Kate was going to join too, and bring a friend.

On the day itself it turned out that Kate wasn't coming anyway, nor her friend. So it was just Lydia and me! I decided that meant we needed a callout. But Kate provided one, so that was sorted. After meeting my new tutees in Bangor, I picked her up, and off we were.

We got kitted up and went in. I had been there many times, but a long long time ago! I remembered a lot of things but not necessarily exactly like they were. But that was okay! We could just explore. I figured Lydia would want to do rope work, as she had just bought her own SRT kit, and I was right. The first pitch is quite close to the entrance, but we noticed there also was a rope going up a bit further along. Mysterious! But ropes going up are a bit tricky; you can’t tell what they are attached to, and how. So we decided to just go down on the rope I had brought.

Near the entrance

Lydia ready to drop the pitch

I didn't clearly remember what was down that pitch. But we just made sure there was a knot at the end of the rope; nothing can go wrong then! If the rope isn’t long enough you hit the knot, and then you just turn around and go back up. And Lydia went down first.

She first came down to a platform that had a re-belay, and then she came down to solid ground. I joined her there. And from there we explored. You can't go very far on that level, unless you go further down. Would  my rope be long enough? One way to find out! But this time I went first. I went down the really strange ore chute, negotiated the woodwork behind it, then came down on the lowest level. And soon Lydia followed me.

Looking up at the ore chute

Overexposed collapsed ore chute

We explored in all directions! I knew you couldn't go far. But it was really nice to see this place again. And the longest level we checked had water up to our bellies. That was a bit cold!

I knew my undersuit was fluffier than Lydia's, so I suggested she go up first in order to stay warm. And she accepted that. I did mean I was in charge of getting the rope up, which was not trivial, as there is so much in this mine that the rope can snag on. But I did it! And then we went back to entrance level.

I had brought cake. There has been a mature students welcome coffee break, with university brownies, and there had been leftovers. So we had one each! And some ginger cake I had made myself. And when we had eaten that we decided to go up the mysterious rope anyway.

Lydia went first. After a while she shouted from above that she was where is had been bolted into the wall, so I could come up as well. It was good to see that the rigging seemed sound! But the rope went further up; these bolts we were sitting by were basically a re-belay. And we weren’t very impressed with what we saw there. And Lydia was still a little bit cold, while I was thinking about my bedtime. I would first have to bring her back to Bangor before I could go home! So we decided that the combination of the dubious rigging higher up, and our diminished levels of ambition, meant we would call it a day. We would just descend again and go out. And so we did! But I thought it had been a successful trip underground.

The pitch we decided to not go up

We had done rope work and we had seen exciting parts of a mine I hadn't been in in years. And there is still a lot more to explore; if you go straight ahead from the entrance instead of being distracted by going both up and down, you come into a lot more of the workings. But that was for another day!

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