Again only Rob and I on tonight’s exploits and what a trip to miss!
You know when something snowballs or spirals out of control? That’s what we’re kind of dealing with on the exploration side at the moment in Intake Dale Mine. Each week just keeps getting longer, more technical, harder work, loads more “fuck-whittery” & definitely more dangerous… and silly. So here’s what happened this week…
We supped our usual pre-beers at the normal time and again after deciding on what gear we’d be taking down we made quick work of kitting up and the walk down the dale. The evening was warm in comparison to previous weeks and no gloves, balaclava or strategically placing of vehicle were required to keep warm whilst kitting up. Knowing from last week that prospects at the bottom were pretty slim with the continuation of the Cartgate ending at a collapse we had already planned to attack the obvious traverse in the roof just below The Tap Room. Having been given some shiny new 60m of 9mm to destroy (thanks to Roy Rodgers) we decided this would be perfect to tackle the project along with the dinky Bosch Uneo drill and a few more bolts and anchors we were well equipped for an adventure.
We reached Tap Room after 30 min from the entrance then after sorting gear Rob took the lead and we both dropped down to the small ledge just below the funnel of deads. Rob started edging west whilst I belayed him from my makeshift belay, turns out we had fewer bolts than we thought so we spared the one at the bottom of the funnel and tied into the rope hanging down from The Tap Room.
Rob edged west for about 6m to where the rift widened to about 1m wide which made jamming oneself in this space rather awkward. He placed a bolt for mild protection then made his way into the unknown. He shouted back in amazement with his now crystal clear view of the 20+ stemple ladder we gawped at from below last week. He proclaimed that he needed to ascend between stemples to what he thought was a safe ledge to proceed forward. After a bit of moaning and groaning he got himself to the ledge, placed a bolt and was ready to belay me across.
Obviously I had the harder task in seconding the traverse loaded with the survey gear on my side… I started across and once at the bolt re-tied it so we could have a fixed traverse on the way back. At this point we were now free-hanging some 100ft above where we had walked the previous week at the bottom of The Big Rift. Now I was at the tricky part, where the rift widened. The surveying gear made it hard work with it bunching up on one side, I dropped into the rift proper and the sides were slicked with mud. Rob had actually made a half decent job of pushing this on very sparse runners but he didn’t have the surveying gear… After making a meal of the job I listened to Rob’s advice and just let myself fall on the rope. Here I now pulled myself across the traverse like a sloth on a branch and soon found myself at The “Stemple Highway” now named “TAP Traverse”. Rob told me off for wanting to try the stemples and see if they’d hold my weight.
Rob returning along TAP Traverse, By Jon P
Here we were now comfortably standing with a solid roof above our heads. Rob was WHOOPING away telling me to look forward. In front of us, still heading west was a perfect ledge system on both sides with a perfectly placed row of six stemples. It’s safe to say the next section of traverse was easy pickings. I belayed Rob on the off chance he’d slip trying to dodge the T’owd Man’s clog prints along these ledges. They’d obviously done the exact same thing we were now doing some 200 years before us. After a further 10m we reached a point where the ledges ran out and after another easy bridge where some water ran in from above Rob placed another one of our precious bolts and shouted me across after he hard-rigged the traverse.
T'Owd Man's Clog Print, By Jon P
Where the ledge ran out the roof stepped up for 5m to two higher levels heading East and West, East looked very inviting, walking height and quite wide with a small stream emerging from it but was the obvious harder option to reach (avoiding stemples) whilst West was an easy bridge, also with a small trickle of water flowing out and the lead I thought carried the draught!
Ok what do we do now?
We had two options based on our limited gear. We had about 30m of rope left but only 2 more bolts. We could either head upwards here and check out these two leads (most likely continuing upwards and to surface) or proceed on the traverse west and see how far we get. We chose West as it looked easy going for the time being and we’d be able to make good progress and extend the survey to yet another sheet of paper. After the bolt a tight, awkward traverse led to a false calcited floor which took weight. After another thrutch and some more stemple dodging Rob placed our second to last bolt just before a large opening which began to appear in front of us.
Here the rift opened up all around it looks like a large section of the north wall had collapsed leaving some large bonnet sized pieces of rock jammed down below us and further in front which left a large open space at our height. Rob was excited as he thought we were still with the draught. Upwards continued out of sight, West continued after a wide traverse and below was a large drop but we were unsure if we’d advanced from last week’s limit. Rob checked out the traverse and after a quick inspection he thought it was doable without much protection. He bridged the wide gap and after 5m and a bit more fuck-whittery he found himself safely on the other side. What was now coming back didn’t sound great. The continuation west tightened up and it looks like our efforts to proceed west had finished for tonight!
We obviously couldn’t progress up here with our last remaining bolt so our next option was to descend from the last bolt as far as the rope would take us as we’d nearly ran out and then see where abouts we were in comparison to last week then survey back out to The Tap Room. Rob re-rigged the hang and slowly descended dodging the false floor and stemples around him. He laughed at what I was standing on as he could see from below how thick the floor was or wasn’t! Good job I was safely clipped in. Rob reached the floor and once clear gave me a big, “ROPE FREE!” I wasted no time in following him down the rope which now made for a quick descent I had to use a cow’s tail as a braking crab to give me a bit more friction on the new 9mm. About halfway down looked a good spot to continue our traverse west but this would have to wait for more bolts (now on 4 leads and counting).
Rob descending the new pitch, By Jon P
Once at the bottom Rob shouted over the not so good news that we were back in the climbing section above the end of the Cartgate from last week. Good in a sense that we could now tie in the survey and see exactly how far west the final collapse was but bad in the sense that this was it. We climbed back down to the final collapse and whilst Rob started to shoot splays in the final collapsed, muddy chamber I took a few photos of the wooden ladder we’d forgot to do last week. We climbed back up to the head of the small ginged shaft to where a higher traverse headed west along a ledge. We looked at this last week and thought nah! – looks shit, better off going higher up. Rob said he’d already been across so far and it was wank, normally Rob’s good at this sort of stuff too but not this time.
The wooden and iron ladder, By Jon P
I went for a second look and after a few metres there was no indication he pushed beyond. I crawled along the ledge to where I could stand up. From here a tight bridge across a small pot gained access to a rubble slope, here I could see the way on west continued after a further ascending bridge cum traverse over a 4m deep pot. The way over west looked large in comparison and I could feel a draught. The pot below looked natural, it reminded me of one of the small fractured pots at the bottom of Nettle Pot. At the bottom of the pot a small black hole caught my eye, I shouted back to Rob that it looked good and that I was going to climb down and check it out. Rob soon crawled his way along the ledge so he could see what was going on. The pot was really sketchy with both the west and east wall sides stacked way above our heads, we had to make sure not to touch anything close by.
At the bottom of the pot I could see through the hole into a small chamber until my view went out of sight. I couldn’t see much but I could feel the strong draught coming out which is strange as we’ve been following the draught throughout the rest of the mine – Boy! It was now getting exciting again. Rob climbed down as we had plenty of space at the bottom for both of us. I encouraged him to dig the floor whilst I filmed it on my camera. After removing a shit ton of rock which fell straight through into the chamber below we now had before us a rubble slope between two solid walls which dropped down 1.5m into the chamber below. Rob dropped through and as quickly as he’d disappeared out of sight he shouted to come through – QUICK! I dithered about and dropped my camera case and as quickly as possible dropped down the slope.
I was now sat on a boulder floor looking at Rob who was staring down a large natural passage heading north – ISOLATION! We’d cracked it or so I thought! After a bit of WHOOPING and a high five Rob encouraged me to push north along the passage, it was a large collapsed passage with a vadose trench carved through the centre. The passage was very muddy and looked to be a prime contender for the source of the flooding. After a few metres the passage soon filled with mud and although there was still a small airspace present it carried no draught – bugger!
Rob arriving in Isolation, By Jon P
Back in the chamber I dug a few boulders from the rubble floor which seemed quite open but we proceeded west to where a small natural passage entered from the south but was filled with mud. Before us now still heading west the roof shot up showing signs of miner’s activity, we were now back in miner’s territory (up here appears to link back to the passage going west at the top of the pot). We were now stood at the head of a 7m pitch in solid rock. We could see a solid floor but the way on looked to maybe be underneath us. I could hear somewhere in the distance a faint dripping falling into a pool just as I could hear back when we first explored The Hobgoblin’s Hideaway. We were now faced with the biggest dilemma of the evening.
Rob admiring the western lead in Isolation, By Jon P
I was keen to push on forward as we could easily traverse the pitch and continue west out of sight but Rob with his serious head on for the first time was the voice of reason. We came to an agreement and decided to head back to where we stopped surveying and continue to survey back up to The Tap Room. This would leave us hungry to come back after the pandemic had subsided but also gave us important survey data that we needed to start drawing up The Big Rift. Once back at last survey station we giddily surveyed back out, up the pitch and along the traverse whilst taking photos along the way. We both agreed that the traverse required a few more bolts for the feint hearted ( Lukey Boy) and we’d be probably be better off pushing the very end by abseiling down a lot closer to The Tap Room and walking along the bottom.
We reached the surface just before midnight and enjoyed a couple of Hobgoblin’s in the car whilst WHOOPING a few more times at what a spectacular, Awesome evening we’d just had and at what could possibly be the end of the world – hence why we didn’t try make the pub due to spread of Corona virus. – Hence calling our natural discovery ISOLATION.
We now have 6 leads to look at when we return but the first job will be to continue the survey to Isolation first, shame this’ll have to wait a few weeks if not months before we get the gang back together and push onwards through what’ll surely become known as The Wild West.
Stay safe kids.