Thursday 17 May 2012

16th May - New Rift Pot

'Fancy looking at New Rift Pot?' said the text. 'OK' was my reply before I had checked on-line to see what New Rift Pot was. A quick Google and the first entry I looked at mentions 'Anyway with that little bit of drama out of the way I pursed up the next little bit of a pitch and headed out ... up the tight climbs' while the second entry from one 'Thursday Night Club' 10th Dec 2010 mentions, 'that even with moderate rain the crawl between the first and second pitches can become impassable ', and that Tom had not gone further than the first pitch and that Al had scared himself when the water backed up and flowed over his shoulders while he was trying to get out of the passage. Oh well, tight and wet, my least favourite caving activities, ought to go and give it a look!

So we walked  in the light (novel activity) and were soon descending the dug rift where boards and scaffolding bars bulged with the strain of 30 years of holding back rubble.  The modern techniques for shoring digs have come on a long way!  At the bottom of the first pitch the crawl beckoned so we took off our SRT gear.  The small passage was not too wet but the standing pools made for wet going.  A couple of sections required  the 'breathing out hard' technique to get the chest through narrow bits but the passage was never too constricted although the left bend did require some manoeuvring to position the body to go around it.  We had been given the nod that the pitches were rigged so didn't have tackle bags of ropes, throwing the SRT kit ahead was hard enough but Al also had his large angular tackle bag of camera gear to manhandle through the narrows.  Hard work!

In a tight bit!

The passage dropped into a slot and then descended through a tricky drop.  to this point I had been leading but a look at the next section was too much for my fragile confidence.  The tight looking corner and body shaped slot going downhill looked too much.  I gave the lead to Al who shot off down with a 'I'll just have a look'!  I sat in the dark listening to the sounds of his suit and strange rumbling sounds as he went through the constriction and on to the pitch head, whereupon he came back and announced that it was 'OK, just had to watch the hips as I came through the slot.'  Problem is my chest is bigger than my hips and I don't like it when the only way through is to breathe out hard and then push.  How will I get back?  Anyway, panic controlled we carried on to the pitch head, which although a bit constricted opened out into a huge chamber called Coates Cavern.

The advice was 'go down the slope then up if you want to see the pretties'.  Good advice as interesting caverns were explored that were huge compared to the tight way in.  An active dig in one of the caverns was seen, which followed a small stream and seems to be a promising way on and may explain the in-situ ropes.

The return journey was not as bad as feared.  Al makes a great stepladder and with combined tactics I got through the tight bits and up the climbs while he just seemed to come through them without problems.  The biggest problem he had was lugging his camera tackle bag back through the crawl.

Back at the bottom of the first pitch I was confused by an unusual optical illusion.  Above me was a bright light,   Was it a caver descending?  Was it the moon?  No, it was daylight at the top of the pitch and sunshine!  What an unusual way to end a caving trip - in the sun!

Too sunny for the camera

Sunday 6 May 2012

5th May 2012 - There and back again

Not many caving trips start with a walk up a mountain carrying a big rucksac but then not many caving trips involve 230m of fixed ladders and 1 mile of underground walking and also, this was not a cave but a mine.  Greenside lead mine to be precise, closed in 1961, reopened in 2005 by the troglominers of COMRU, CAMs and MOLES.  The ultimate through trip in Lake District subterranean exploration was our aim, knowing, however, that the chances of exiting the lower entrance was nil.  We couldn't get access to the key!

The route startes with a mile and half walk from Greenside Mine to the top entrance at the head of Glencoyndale

Changing into caving gear at the top entrance to the mine.

After crawling through the entrance series, wading through knee deep water and a left turn we reach the ladders.  From here onwards we climb down 230m of ladders placed in the mine in the late 1950s!  Fortunately the ladders are protected by modern bolts and caving ropes!

Ladder pitches are interspersed with platforms that are formed by wedging wooden planks across the shafts.  We were not too impressed by the fungi that grew on the wood!

The reason for the ladders was as an escape route from the mine in the vent of a fire.  The shafts go straight up from Lucy Tongue level to the exit in Glencoyndale.

And on down, followed by a 1 mile walk down an excavated passage to finally reach the entrance back at the car!

However, the Lake District National Park Authority are not forthcoming with the access key, so despite the fresh air and view (see below) 2mm of steel halted us from completing the through trip of the mountain.

So back up we went.

Relics of old mining technology.

Zig Zag ladders

Long ladder climbs

The final crawl to the exit

Escape into fresh air

Looking back at the entrance

Looking down at the Greenside Mine entrance where we saw the daylight but couldn't escape

The hobbit hole entrance where we sat and saw the daylight nearly 3 1/2 hours before.  We left one of our spare ropes at the entrence as we didn't need it.  We rescued it on our return.