With opportunity for an early start and a definite beer on the cards Rob and I met at 6pm in the usual layby, quickly kitted up and descended the mine for 6:15pm. Luke had to bail due to work commitments so only 2/3’s of Team Awesome were present tonight and OH BOY did he miss a good trip – sorry Luke.
I offered to carry the drill knowing Rob would be doing the bolting and within no time at all Rob was kitting up at the start of The High Road ready to finish off the traverse. Here’s where we started to hear loud crashing and banging noises – the wall below The Tool Room had started to collapse, this continued throughout the evening too. Rob re-rigged the rope from last week and made a start whilst I shouted words of encouragement. After a couple of bolts on some very dodgy ground Rob managed to get a pretty bomber stainless steel long bolt in solid rock from where he could abseil down to a ledge of chocked boulders and climb up to safety. He placed another bolt at the far end and backed it up as the mine looked to continue beyond, making the traverse mostly free-hanging. Rob shouted for me to join him to see how it was? I picked up the surveying gear, spare rope and what bolts/hangers we had left, clipped in and started to gingerly make my way across. I placed my left foot out wide to give me some stance ready to attack the traverse but my foot gave way immediately to the wall which crumbled away beneath me.
“Hmmm…” I thought to myself, this is going to be fun! The rope along the traverse was still rigged on runners rather than knotted as Rob had just led the route which left slack that left you hanging below the decent footings. Also the slack had to be pulled through when changing cowtails and then pulled taught once past the runner to stop you falling on the rope. I felt much safer once I had passed the good bolt and soon joined Rob on the other side who quickly remarked at how we’d passed a milestone and broken back into clean workings!
Rob's concentration face
The possible two ways on we could see from the start quickly turned out to be one as the left was just an alcove. A boulder slope dropped down to a short stooping level with remnants of railway sleepers on the floor. It passed a corner to the head of a pitch in a larger chamber from where we could see a large stacked wall at the opposite end. Excitement growing Rob placed a couple of bolts and started his abseil. Within metres from the pitch head he stopped and whooped at a small alcove containing an old miner’s candle. He continued his descent (approx. 8m) to a funnel of boulders which looked rather voidy and obviously continued deeper. Rob made his way back under the pitch to a safe place as the floor was constantly on the move.
T'owd Man's candle
I wasted no time and joined him on the floor. Things started to get real interesting from here on as I safely got myself below the stacked wall at the far end. Looking up I could see another eye-hole similar to that of The Tool Room just above the stacked wall. Rob joined me and after clearing off some footings with a little arse grabbing from my colleague I was easily up the climb and started to place a couple of bolts to rig a rope. Unfortunately the eye-hole didn’t go and was blind after a few metres. From the top of the wall the chamber continued steeply up to another ledge and what looked like a continuation at roof level. The whole place reminded me of Knights Templar in Oxlow Caverns (not that many people have seen) but on a smaller scale and pipe workings rather than natural. Cautious about time we dropped down a slope at the base of the second climb which led up and down a few climbs to a complete run in. We both noted that the colour of rock on the floor was a lovely shade of pink. Water could also be heard towards the entrance buried under the mass of boulders Just before a pristine ore chute in the roof.
We surveyed out and both agreed some of the climbs we had just done looked a lot sketchier on the way out! I had a quick mooch up the second climb which gained access to a small mined level at roof height, unfortunately this also led to a run in after a 10 metres. I could see back across at this height to another stacked wall and potential way over the top. This is situated much higher than anything around this area but will require a few bolts to gain access.
We continued to survey out and once back at the pitch we shuffled over boulders underneath the passage above to a wide, low mined out chamber which led back to the vein. Low and behold we were faced with the opposite side of the infamous wall we had been throwing rocks at last week. A small 3m shaft sunk down on our side which was too dodgy to descend but looked blind.
Once at the top of the pitch we took a moment to bag the drill ready to survey across the traverse when I saw a straw type object in the rubble, after a quick clean it turned out to be remnants of T’owd Man’s smoking pipe, also a short distance back along the level fingerprints could be seen in pockets on the wall from where miners had fingered out clay for stemming shot holes - this was turning out to be quite trip indeed! We shot our final survey leg across the traverse and were soon Anchor bound but still with a distant rumble coming from the slope below The Tool Room. I half expected to find our rope buried under a load of debris but it looked to have not changed much, it still very loose and very dodgy.
We made it our fairly sharpish from that point and were on surface for 10:30pm ready for a victory pint fully psyched to return next week – another epic trip!