A sunny Saturday saw 5 of us squeezed into a Berlingo and heading up the much improved track as far as the Youth Hostel. A steep walk up the hillside beyond and we were soon embarking on a leisurely pootle down through 5 levels of the Coniston Coppermines, from Levers Water down to the Hospital Level.
As usual, not far inside the mine we took a quick detour to visit the Stemples of Doom! Apart from a few longer-than-entirely-comfortable steps, they’re not too bad to cross, and they are protected by a traverse line. Some people prefer not to look down the gaping void below though.
A short bit of easy passage and a couple of pitches soon brought us to the jewels in the crown of this particular mine: the Green Pool and the Blue Boulder, expertly photographed by Chris. The photos below show the colours as they actually are… not some artificially enhanced version!
Another short section of passage then leads to the final pitch down into the Hospital Level. This pitch always has a lot of loose rock at the top, so it was strictly one person moving at a time. Once down to the Hospital Level, it’s an easy journey back to the surface.
A satisfied crew then made their way down to the Black Bull for a celebratory pint, apart from Chris, who unfortunately had to head straight off.
Tom Calpin, Scott Nixon, Bob Cattley, Tim Donovan, John Forder, Miranda Forder, Pete Blamire
A pretty damp day, perfect for a mine. I’d planned a complete through-trip from the top open stopes through to the bottom level, so we all blindly slogged up the hill in kits with rope (this was a new trip to us, although Bob and I had been in the bottom level before). But on reaching the stope, we realised that mine explorers’ bolting is somewhat different to us entitled cavers – they were just raw bolts, you’re expected to bring your own hangers! In a strop we rigged back to some sort of boulders behind the hole as a backup, and Scott rigged the pipe bridging the stope for the main hang. But…disaster. We dropped the rope down and it was still falling at full speed when it went taut – the rope was probably too short, given that we’d used a bunch of it on backing up to a natural.
Trip ruined! Ah well, we slunk back down the hillside to the bottom level, stripped off our kits and left them inside the locked gate, and went for a thorough explore of the bottom level instead. First we headed up the Harding vein to check out all the hoppers, crosscuts, and past the blockage to the far end of the vein, where we found the ladders leading up to the stopes from the through-trip. At this point, Bob’s CO2 meter started getting tetchy and we called off the 8 ladder climb with Miranda partway up. We headed back around the bypass to the collapse and the meter got even more tetchy, beeping loudly to tell us to get a move on.
Next we headed up the Wilson vein, with quick stops to check out minerals, leftovers and to post Scott up into a creaking manway up a ladder. Outward we headed to driving rain covered in arsenic mud and the first appalling car changing session of the winter season. Good times 🙂